Cycling fans were probably wondering on August 6, after Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet won the Rio Olympics road race: What if Peter Sagan had raced? Well, the reigning world road race champion harbors no doubts despite seeing one of his contemporaries win a surprise gold medal on a course expected to favor pure climbers.
“The decision to race in mountain bike was made in January. It’s all in the past.” said the Slovak. “I am here to focus on mountain bike. I’m surprised in the victory of Greg Van Avermaet, but the road race in the Olympics is a strange race. There is not a strong field, it depends on the legs, it depends on the luck. He was also a bit lucky due to the crash involving the others, but the Olympic gold medal is for all of life.”
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Sagan’s only previous Olympics experience came at the 2012 Games in London, where he finished 34th in the road race. Although he admits that even four years ago, he’d hoped to return to the dirt. He was a junior world cross-country mountain bike champ, after all.
“I raced the road race in London, and I already wanted to race mountain bike there, but it was not possible,” he added. “For sure, it’s a big dream for me. I have already won some big things on the road, already the road race world championship. What can I do now? Olympic Games. We will see. Maybe I have another Olympic road race in my future.”
Whether or not the 2020 Games in Tokyo will have a course that favors Sagan’s strengths remains to be seen. For now, the 26-year-old is focused on Sunday’s XC mountain bike race.
“It’s all about one day. All about one and a half hours,” he said. “The tactics I will decide during the race. You can lose the race in the start, but it could be good. Maybe if I am lucky, and I can go to the front pretty fast. Maybe I will waste too much energy. The Tour de France has nothing to do with mountain biking. For sure, the road race, it’s a completely different effort. You cannot compare it to time trial. It’s more like cyclocross. Mountain bike is something different. I did my best in training. I will do my best Sunday. No one knows what the hell to expect. Maybe it’s more funny.
“I am not here to lose. Can I win? If I lose, I am not disappointed. If I win, it’s so good. I’m here for a result.”