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by Neal Rogers
November 23, 2016
Photography by Christopher Kaiser
World champion Peter Sagan is still only 26 — he turns 27 in January — yet the Slovakian rider has alluded to the possibility that his professional career could be over as soon as 2019.
Speaking with journalists at his gran fondo charity event in Westlake Village, California, over the weekend, Sagan said his career could perhaps last another “three, four, five, six years — I don’t know for how many.”
While far from a declarative statement, Sagan’s words come as a surprise, given his age and star power.
Since turning professional in 2010, Sagan has won seven stages of the Tour de France (and five consecutive green jerseys), two world championships, and wins at the Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem, and E3 Harelbeke. He’s also won four stages at the Vuelta a España, five stages at Tirreno-Adriatico, 13 stages at Tour de Suisse, 15 stages at the Amgen Tour of California, and taken WorldTour wins at one-day races in Quebec and Montreal.
In 2016 Sagan was also the top rider in the UCI WorldTour rankings. Next year he has the possibility of tying Erik Zabel’s all-time record of green jerseys.
During the Tour de France, Sagan signed a three-year deal with Bora-hansgrohe which begins in January 2017. He is rumored to be one of the highest-paid riders in the sport, earning a reported €5M ($5.3M). Beyond his contract with Bora-hansgrohe, which ends in 2019, it appears his future is wide open — and uncertain.
Asked which races are most important for him to win before he retires, Sagan pointed to Paris-Roubaix, saying “From the start of the season, [the focus] is the classics. Whatever I win, I will be happy. Roubaix… because I won Flanders, if I can win another Flanders, I will be happy. If I could win Roubaix, I would also be happy, because I’ve never won Roubaix.” Sagan’s best result at Roubaix is sixth, in 2014.
Asked about prioritizing Milan-San Remo — a race where he’s finished in the top 10 on four occasions in seven attempts — Sagan said he’s tried to win San Remo several times, calling it “a lottery.”
“[San Remo] is important,” Sagan said. “As I said, I’ll be happy if I win any of the classics. But San Remo is a lottery. I’ve tried every year to win San Remo, and then I’ve twice won the world championships. What is more important? I’m trying, but in racing, you can do one bad movement, and that’s it. It’s over. Cycling is like that, you’re riding for six hours, and then it’s over in three seconds.”
And while retiring in six years from now — at age 32, nearly 33 — would be young by most measures, it would also be after a 13-year pro career.
Prompted to elaborate on his stated three-to-six-year timeframe, Sagan was philosophical. “Nobody knows,” he said. “This is life. One day it is good, the next day it is bad. One day you are winning the Tour de France, another day you’re at home.”
Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) during a recon of the 2016 Paris-Roubaix. Photo Kristof Ramon.