By his own standards, Peter Sagan didn’t have a stellar 2020. The Slovak, who is in the final year of his contract at BORA-hansgrohe, was there-or-thereabouts in most races he entered but it took a spectacular, season-saving solo in the Giro d’Italia to put a gloss on a fairly matte year.
That performance on stage 10 from Lanciano to Tortoreto reminded us all of what a special rider Sagan is. He looked beastly; a musclebound brawler laying waste to a bar-room full of pallid, scrawny dweebs. It was a throwback to days when Sagan seemed to do this at every big race, when he often looked to be from a different species to his opponents.
Lately, moments like this have been sparse for the man that middle-aged Rapha Dads insist on calling a “rock star”. Rumours of a Sagan demise have abounded. But that day, as he blasted into Tortoreto and crossed the line, his peacocking post-up seemed to demand of the haters, “How you like me now?”
Still, the Twitterati continue to murmur that he isn’t what he used to be and though it would be immensely stupid to suggest that Sagan is “past it”, it’s clear that his win-rate has decreased.
If you decided to be extra critical you could say that, excluding points classifications, he has only produced two major wins in the past two seasons: Tortoreto in 2020 and stage five of the 2019 Tour de France. (Stans of Suisse, California and the TDU, do not @ me). The accepted wisdom is that lockdown affected him more than most in 2020.
But as ever, and as alluded to earlier, we are judging Sagan by Sagan standards. When you’ve won 12 Tour stages, seven green jerseys, three world championships and two monuments, people expect you to simply keep dominating ad infinitum. But that’s not really how things work. Rivals emerge, you get infinitesimally slower, shit happens. We’re in the MVDP/WVA era now. Maybe.
Today’s Sagan remains one of the best riders on the planet. Perhaps he has gone from being 5% better than everyone else to simply being in the 99th percentile. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Except, possibly, in the eyes of the people who hold the purse-strings at Bora. People who, one can surmise, may wish to see a winning return on their substantial investment in the Sagan pay-packet.
In many ways Sagan, who turned 31 a few days ago, has made this team what it is – but when have you ever known professional sport to be anything other than ruthless? If he wants a new deal – and he may not – then he’ll have to produce the goods.*
Would you bet against him doing so? KONM wouldn’t.
*It’s worth saying that this type of contract speculation is exactly that. You could even use the phrase “baseless conjecture”, if you prefer.
This piece is an extract from KONM’s 2021 BORA-hansgrohe preview.
Featured image: s. yuki/Wikimedia Commons, cc-by-sa 2.0 Generic, edited by KONM