Following the recent farewells of similarly heralded greats, Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde Philippe Gilbert and Tom Dumoulin, a real changing of the guard is taking place in the men’s peloton, and Sagan, like the others, has struggled to keep up with the pace being set by the new, younger stars of cycling.
Problems with illnesses have certainly contributed to his dwindling form, but even at full fitness he’ll likely only be an outside favourite in the races he used to dominate, behind the likes of Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Biniam Girmay. And is there a clearer tell-tale sign that someone’s getting old than when they start bemoaning the younger generation for ‘lacking respect’, as Sagan did last year?
Sagan during stage one of the 2022 Tour de France (Image by Zac Williams/SWPix.com)
Although he’s far from done just yet, and is likely to still compete for big results if his run of high placings at the Vuelta a San Juan is anything to go by, now is a good time to reflect on his career as a whole, and where exactly he stands in relation to the all-time greats.
Read more: Peter Sagan on why he’s stepping away from the WorldTour
In the straightforward, crude measurement of total career wins, few have bettered him. To date, Sagan has 121 to his name, which, according to ProCyclingStats’ data, puts him 19th on the all-time list, just one win behind Tom Boonen. That’s a huge tally for a rider perhaps more venerated for his consistency of high placings rather than ruthless winning streaks, and someone who early in their career was renowned for runner-up finishes and near misses. It’s easy to forget just how prolific a winner he’s been; in only one season between his second year as a pro in 2011 to 2017 did he manage less than 10 wins.
Still, above all it’s been his consistency that has set the Slovakian apart from arguably every other rider to have preceded him. That’s reflected in his record-breaking total of seven green jersey titles at the Tour de France, a record that looks unlikely to be beaten for a long time, if ever. To return year after year at the same exceptionally high level, never crashing out, getting ill or suffering a slump in form, showed remarkable resilience and commitment.
Sagan at the 2020 Tour de France (Image by ASO/Pauline Ballet via SWPix.com)
Even more impressively, he accumulated all of these titles during what was a golden era for great bunch sprinters, yet neither Mark Cavendish,…
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