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Before Peter Sagan was the world road champion, he was a world mountain-bike champion.
That win, in 2008 in Val di Sole, Italy, was at the junior level. On August 21, Sagan will face many of the riders from that field in Rio di Janeiro, racing for Slovakia in the Olympic cross-country event.
The Slovakia Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that Sagan had been awarded the country’s sole Olympic mountain-bike spot — and in doing so, had given up his spot on the Olympic road team, proclaiming that the hilly road course in Rio does not suit him.
Though he’s won Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders this year, the world champion has also been getting in time on knobby tires. After the spring classics, Sagan twice raced elite-level events in Eastern Europe in April, crashing out of a race in Graz, Austria, and finishing fourth at a Czech Cup event in Teplice, after a puncture, to earn 25 points in the UCI rankings.
After the Amgen Tour of California, where he won two stages, the Tinkoff star spent time mountain biking in Park City, Utah.
The Slovakian federation had requested a wildcard entry for Sagan, if some nations did not fill their mountain-bike allocations; Sagan was selected outright based on points earned in Teplice.
“This nomination came by mutual agreement of the Commissions of the relevant disciplines. Everyone thought that Peter Sagan, as world champion will start the road race. However Peter offered his place in the road event in exchange for place in the cross-country mountain bike race,” said Peter Privara, president of the Slovak Cycling Association, in a statement from the Slovakia Olympic Committee.
Prior to the Olympics, Sagan will return to the Tour de France, where he has won the green points jersey for the past four years, and won four stages. Sagan has exactly four weeks between the end of the Tour and the Olympic mountain-bike race.
“After the Tour de France, he will do four weeks of special training,” Privara said. “He will not go to Rio just to take part but to aim for a top result.”
The Slovakian Olympic Committee confirmed that mountain-bike pro Martin Haring will compete in the road race, with Patrik Tybor as an alternate; Haring will be an alternate for the mountain-bike race.
“We have long considered and thought about all the ‘pros and cons’ of the nomination committee of mountain biking,” said Jan Žilovec, head of the Slovakian mountain-bike commission. “The aim is to reach for Slovakia the best possible result. Peter Sagan in the past managed to win the world championship in mountain biking, so his chances of a good outcome are realistic. At the moment, I can confirm that support for the plan from of all nominees.”