Peter Sagan is one of cycling’s superstars, and behind his victories is an entire close-knit support group that ensures the highly solicited rider can stay focused on winning bike races. VeloNews went behind the scenes with Sagan’s inner circle before this year’s Giro d’Italia, and for the second of our four-part series we feature Gabriele Uboldi, Sagan’s press officer.
Gabriele Uboldi has a powerful presence whenever he shows up to a bike race. And as Peter Sagan’s personal press officer he wields plenty of power.
After all, as everyone in the sport knows, if you want to get to Sagan you have to go through Uboldi. And yet despite the obvious control, Uboldi always retains a healthy dose of humility.
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But then Uboldi has spent his life frequenting stars. Uboldi, the son of an Italian soccer agent, has spent his life working with sportsmen at the highest level.
“First I was doing logistics for a Vasilij Zbogar, a Slovenian sailor who was a big star, the first Slovenian to win an Olympic medal . He was just a huge champion and also a crazy guy, a bit similar to Peter,” Uboldi says with a gentle laugh. “And I also worked for Oleg Tinkov, so between Vasilij, Oleg and Peter, I have earned a lot of experience working with big personalities who are a bit crazy. But they are all great guys, too!”
And as Uboldi explains, it was while working for Tinkov that he first met Sagan.
“After a year with Peter on the team, his agent Giovanni Lombardi thought it would be good to have somebody really close to Peter to deal with the stress and so I started working closely with Peter,” he said.
Sometimes it is hard to separate Uboldi from Sagan as he is by Sagan’s side before and after the start of any race, not to mention any public appearance.
But he insists that while Lombardi’s role is more discreet, he too is central to Peter’s success.
Also read: Peter Sagan learning to win in new ways
“Lombardi is just a genius when it comes to working with people. First, he has a real code of honor. His word is always good. And he is really close to the riders he works with,” he said. “I think Lombardi is really one of the secrets behind Peter’s success. People don’t see that, but he is always looking out for Peter and what is best for his career.
“A couple of years ago a lot of people thought it was crazy for Peter to sign with Bora,” he said. “It was a small team, not even World Tour, but it was Lombardi who really thought this was the best place for Peter. And look, five years later Bora-Hansgrohe is definitely one of the best teams in the world. And that is not just by chance.”
Too early to speak of contracts
It’s no secret that Sagan’s contract is up, and there has been no end to stories and speculation regarding the 31-year-old Slovakian’s future. But Uboldi says flatly that such talk is premature.
“It’s still too early to really think about teams next year. First, it is too early to think about that because Peter wants to show something this year and he wants to show it at the Giro,” Uboldi explains. “Peter is not in a hurry to sign. Last year was a very complicated year and then Peter got COVID early this year. So really he wants to race here at the Giro and show himself.
“And after the Giro, we will sit down and think about next year,” he said. “Our first choice is to stay with Bora-Hansgrohe, but again, we will sit down and start to think about the options once the Giro is over. Right now there are a lot of rumors, but really for us, we won’t even think about next year until after the Giro.”
And Sagan is racing well in Italy, winning stage 10 and making his daily podium appearance in the maglia ciclamino.
“The hunger, Peter never lost it,” Uboldi insists. “Last year was complicated, but we don’t feel at all that Peter is on his way down. For 10 years he always had the same routine and everything changed with COVID. That’s not an excuse, that is just the way it is. Also, and I’ve never said this before, but I think the lack of public at the races really has an effect on Peter. He just really feeds off of the public and takes energy from them. After all, he is Sagan. He is not like others.”
But while Sagan can make winning look easy, Uboldi insists that not everything around Sagan is effortless.
“The greatest challenge working with Peter is dealing with all of the stress that is around him, and our first job is to relieve that stress so that Peter can focus on racing. I am probably more stressed than Peter, but that is my job, to absorb Peter’s stress.”
“And so a small group of us here serve as Peter’s own bubble to relieve the stress,” he said. “Peter and I talk four or five times a day, and often we talk very little about cycling. But really, Peter is my second family. We were together when my daughter was born and we were together when his son was born. We have had so many moments together. And they are far from over!”