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Is Peter Sagan’s reign over?

ALLEZ - Jose Vicente Araneta - The Freeman

The most popular, the winningest, the most lovable, (you can add your superlative) cyclist in the past decade is Peter Sagan. If there was cycling royalty, he would have been Peter the Great.

It seemed that whatever race Sagan clipped his shoes on, he would win it, or at least be in the final selection for the finish. When he won, he was generous and when he lost, he was always full of praise of his rivals.

Peter was never a dirty rider like Caleb Ewan or Robbie McEwen. He was never irresponsible during sprints. Remember when Sagan was DQ’d in the 2017 Tour de France for allegedly elbowing Mark Cavendish? Looking at it at normal speed, it would seem so but in slo-mo, it was far from it.

He would always have time for the fans and the cameras. He made wheelies during a race fun, not dangerous. He had funny quotes and makes funny faces but he could get run trouble sometimes like when he squeezed the behind of a podium girl. And to this day, I still believed that Cannondale and and Oakley made a big mistake of letting him. go.

But are the fun and winning days over for this Slovak? Last year, he won his 7th green jersey in the Tour but he won only 4 races, and the most significant was a stage in the Tour. Everybody compared him to Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen and thought that at this point he would have at least similar palmares in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, yet he only had one for each. But you can’t compare Sagan to Cancellara, he is more multi-dimensional than both of them.

However, there are three young riders today who are capable of a coup de etat. Matthiue van Der Poel, Wout van Aert and Remco Evanepoel. Of the three, the winningest and already succeeding is van Der Poel. He had more wins than Sagan on 2019.  Just imagine this: there has never been a rider who was the #1 favourite on the World Championships despite never racing it and never experiencing a full professional racing calendar. The scary thing for Sagan is that the three riders have a lot of common with him ergo, cycling fans will be treated to spectacle when the four meet in Flanders or Roubaix.

Wout van Aert, just like van Der Poel, had already won a TTT stage and sprint stage in last year’s Tour when he crashed on a roadside barrier that ended his season. He also did well in the Classics.

Evanepoel is the youngest pretender. But its hard to call him a pretender when as a rookie he won his first Classic, the Clasica San Sebastian when he was working as a domestique. Still 20yo, Evanepoel is still a stage where he still has to find where his strengths lies- one day races or stage races. But it can’t be denied that he will be in the mix in the next ten years or so. He could be the first Belgian to win the Tour in a long time.

At 29yo, Sagan is still at the height of his powers. Remember that Johann Musseuw. Raced in his late 30’s and still won one day races. When asked about his cycling mortality, this is what he said, “Now I can see the end, you know? I don’t think I can keep riding to 40 years of age with my style. I don’t have a lot of years left. But that’s more motivating than frightening, because you realise that it’s going to end soon, so you should enjoy it.”

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