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VeloNews Stories of the Decade: Peter Sagan

Over the last 10 years Peter Sagan became pro cycling’s most popular rider by making winning fun.

Peter Sagan ended the decade just as he started it — attacking with joyful abandon.

From his welcome-to-my-world attack in his very first race at a night-time crit ahead of his debut as a pudgy 19-year-old at the 2010 Tour Down Under, to his last-lap surge off the front — albeit behind the winning group — at the rainy, dreary Yorkshire world championships in late September, Sagan’s been delighting fans and defying expectations every pedal stroke along the way.

Sagan’s finish-line salute for fifth at 2019 worlds was his way of bidding adieu to a decade that was marked more by Sagan than any singular individual rider in the peloton.

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The stats only tell part of Sagan’s impact: 113 pro wins, two monuments —2016 Flanders and 2018 Roubaix — and seven green jerseys and three straight world titles, the latter two both records.

The son of a Slovakian shop owner brought fun and enjoyment back into a sport obsessed with watts, aerodynamics and ketone diets.

“He is an artist. He is a special rider who can do things no one else can,” Bora-Hansgrohe sport director Patxi Vila told VeloNews. “Sometimes cycling is becoming too serious. There are too many numbers. Cycling is fun, and it has to be fun. That’s what Peter brings to cycling.”

Back in 2010, a young Sagan emerged as the perfect rider at the right time when the sport needed fresh stars. His BMX and Rock ‘n’ Roll style rejuvenated a still-sometimes stodgy, old-school sport with his finish-line antics, hors-categories-summit wheelies, and a string of race alter-egos, from the Hulk to the Joker.

Fan-friendly Sagan reached a new generation of fans who would transform cycling into the sport of choice of hipsters around the globe. Nothing summed up Sagan’s world view better than the new mid-chest tattoo he brandished in 2018: “Why so serious?”

“Peter can win just about any race he starts,” said Vila, his longtime coach and confidant. “The main challenge with Peter is to keep him interested. He gets bored sometimes with the long training and same calendar.”

Here’s hoping that Sagan doesn’t get bored yet. The best thing for cycling over the past decade was the peloton finding room for Sagan to be Sagan. Here’s hoping it continues for another 10 years.