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Faceoff: Will Peter Sagan’s move to TotalEnergies rev up his engine?

Bust or boom? Peter Sagan brings his familiar entourage with him in a high-profile transfer that will define his next chapter — our editors debate his prospects.

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Peter Sagan moves to TotalEnergies on a two-year deal in one of the highest-profile off-season moves going into 2022.

Still wildly popular, Sagan is coming off some challenging seasons. An infection of COVID 19, and a few crashes and injuries sees the once-unstoppable Slovak a few notches below his typical level at such races as the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix.

Also read:

The big question for 2022 is — will have a healthy and motivated Sagan return to the top of his throne? Or will have to grow accustomed to sharing the spotlight with a new generation of stars?

VeloNews‘ European editors take a dive into what lies ahead for Sagan and his move to TotalEnergies in 2022:

Peter Sagan is one of many stars that failed to shine at the Tour
Sagan’s five-year spell with Bora-Hansgrohe drew to an end in 2021. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Peter Sagan brings his entourage along with him to TotalEnergies, will that keep the wheels turning for him? Or was it time for a real change?

Jim Cotton: As much as I dig Sagan, he’s clearly a rider that likes his ego stroked and needs things to be “just so” ­– even if his flamboyant riding style and off-beat character suggest otherwise.

It’s easy to look at this question from two sides. Getting rid of his comfort blanket entourage would force Sagan to integrate fully into a new team and face up to the fact he’s perhaps not the superstar he once was.

However, keeping Sagan happy with the retinue that has followed him for several seasons, means he’s got no excuse but to be at his best.

Were Sagan on the way to a big-name WorldTour team, it would have been wise to ditch wingman Oss, P.R. guy Uboldi and all the rest.

Sagan said TotalEnergies attracted him because it was willing to build around him. Having Specialized bikes and his crew of merry men along for the party seems the most foolproof way to make that reshaping happen as fast as possible.

And let’s face it, the pressure will be on both Sagan and Bernaudeau to make good on what is likely a multi-million contract, quick.

Andrew Hood: Sagan brings the entire band with him in his move out of the WorldTour into the second-tier French team. Will the reunion tour work?

Personally, I think it would have been great to see Sagan join the “Wolfpack” for the final years of his career.

A move to the Belgian super-team would have meant Sagan would be on a team hard-wired to win the races that he’s good at. TotalEnergies packs WorldTour ambitions, Quick-Step brings confirmed WorldTour pedigree.

Sure, he would have been lower down on the pecking order and forced to race as a teammate as opposed to being the center of a squad’s tactics, but the way Quick-Step races, everyone eventually gets their chance to win.

In fact, it’s more likely that Sagan would see more opportunities to win at the big races at a team like Quick-Step than he will racing as the lone captain at the second-tier French team. OK, at Quick-Step, things would be more crowded at the top, with the likes of Julian Alaphilippe and Kasper Asgreen demanding more leadership, and old habits are hard to break.

Quick-Step could have made room for him, but not for his entire entourage. Team boss Patrick Lefevere said he wasn’t interested in Sagan because he didn’t want a “team within a team.”

Sagan is long accustomed to being the center of a team’s ambitions in just about every race he starts. And he’s proving loyal to the riders and staffers that have been loyal to him his entire career, so kudos for that.

He’s done it three times, and even though he’s had a few lean years, it’s hard to ignore Peter Sagan. (Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Peter Sagan will be 32 next season, and after two complicated seasons, can he return to his best?

Hood: A healthy and motivated Sagan back in top form can still win races, there’s no doubting that.

But Sagan is facing a similar dilemma like many of his generation: They’re training better than ever, posting better numbers than ever before, yet they’re not winning as often.

Why? Generation Pogačar has completely blown away the peloton.

The arrival of Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, also both hitting their peak years, will make things even more complicated for Sagan.

One thing in Sagan’s corner is that the kinds of races he’s good at — the monuments, the Tour de France, and the worlds — require a deeper engine and more experience, tipping the advantage toward someone bringing some savvy along with the horsepower.

Sagan keeps telegraphing mixed messages in the media. He says he still loves to train and wants to win, but in the same breath, he adds that his life won’t change if doesn’t win a certain race. Or that he wants to spend more time with his son.

Winning in today’s hyper-competitive peloton requires absolute dedication and commitment. Riders rarely just win on “class” alone these days.

Cotton: The 2021 season wasn’t kind to Sagan, who suffered from COVID in the winter and crashed early in the Tour de France.

The year before that didn’t go his way either, but not through a lack of trying. Fourth at Milano-Sanremo, seven top-10s at the Tour, and six at the Giro in 2020 showed Sagan has still got it – but winning doesn’t come quite as easy as it used to.

Racing at ProTour level with TotalEnergies in 2022 will mean that Sagan isn’t afforded the wealth of WorldTour racing he saw with Bora-Hansgrohe. To start with, that may be a bonus ­– he’s sure to see some success in early season lower-tier races.

But the big question will be how much WorldTour racing TotalEnergies gets next year. With Sagan on board, they’re likely to get an invite to the Tour and major classics, but away from that, it will be a lottery.

Should Sagan win some smaller races in the early season to boost his mojo, there’s no reason why he can’t win big again, as long as he gets his chance.

He’s twice placed fourth at Milano-Sanremo in the last two years and he mustered a top-20 at Flanders this year, despite missing the early cobbled classics with COVID.

Sagan clearly still has the legs, and he’ll never lose the savvy. But he may need to regain his skill at converting possibilities into victories in what will be a relatively thin WorldTour calendar in 2022.