Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Doimo is currently 20 years (not very) old and today he celebrated his first professional victory at Paris-Nice. Sagan joined a move initiated by Nicolas Roche on the final climb of the day in Aurillac and outsprinted Roche and Joaquím Rodríguez for the stage win. Today's success followed a fifth place finish in the prologue and a second place finish behind William Bonnet of Bbox-Bouygues Télécom on Monday. Sagan currently sits second in the general classification, and leads both the young riders' and the points classifications. Not half bad for a neo-pro.
Who is this Peter Sagan character, anyway? Questo e' un corridore, writes Rory Masini, the pro rep. for Cannondale. Translated: Now, that is a bike racer. The Liquigas-Doimo webby describes Sagan, who comes from Slovakia, as a passista-veloce, which is to say, he can ride hard on the flats and sprint well, too. (Passista is what the French call a rouleur, though it can also refer in the Italian context to a lighter rider like Basso, who is a passista-scalatore. But I digress.) He's also 184 cm or 6 feet tall.
Sagan comes to the road after a success junior career in the dirt. In 2008, he won the Junior World Championship on the mountain bike in Vale di Sole. That same year, he also finished second at Cyclocross Worlds in Trevisio. Last season, racing on the road in the éspoirs, he picked off a series of placings, including a tenth place at the European championships.
This performance at Paris-Nice is certainly a step up for the young Liquigas-Doimo rider. Earlier this year, Sagan scored two top five finishes in stages at the Tour Down Under. The big win finally came today. He will wear the jersey of best young rider tomorrow, and also leads the points classification. "I am so happy," he said of his stage win. "We will see if the race offers me another opportunity like this." Ambitious, this Sagan.
Thursday may prove tough going for the young Slovak on the steep finish in Mende. It's three kilometers of climbing at an average gradient of 10%. Not exactly the favorite terrain for a sprinter. Still, Sagan is a rider to watch over the coming months. He adds yet another twist to the complicated plot line over at Liquigas-Doimo, whose roster seems to overflow with talent these days. While Sagan is looking to take his chances, Roman Kreuziger sits 14 seconds down in fifth. No doubt Kreuziger would like to finish high at this Paris-Nice and today, could be seen on the front chasing after the dangerous move that included Sagan and leading general classification contenders Jens Voigt, Alberto Contador, and Luis Leon Sánchez. For Kreuziger, Sagan's success may have gone down with a bittersweet bite.
All the same, it's always a joy to see a first victory that announces the arrival of a new talent. Now, that is a bike racer. High praise, indeed, and we'll see soon enough just what young Peter Sagan has to show us.
Photo copyright Getty Images Sport.