The Roar
The Roar


Peter Sagan is not a pure sprinter, or is he?

Peter Sagan is one of the leading contenders for a stage win today (Image: La Gazzetta dello Sport)
14th July, 2015
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Someone, somewhere once said that Peter Sagan wasn’t a pure sprinter.

Like lambs to the slaughter every journalist, fan and cycling hanger-on took up the chorus until the exclamation was blaring loudly over every classic, stage race or run of the mill pedal fest that he entered.

“Peter Sagan is not a pure sprinter!”

Well, if Peter Sagan is not a pure sprinter, then he is damn close.

No, he hasn’t won a stage at this year’s Tour de France, and no, he didn’t win one last year either, but it is taking the very, very best of the genuine fast men to beat him.

At this year’s Tour only Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish have beaten Sagan in bunch sprints. And only by a tyre width each time.

In Stage 2 he was second to Greipel, but ahead of Cavendish. This was repeated in Stage 5. In Stage 7 he was third behind Cavendish and Greipel. It is exulted company to keep and he has been the only rider to threaten the two ‘pure’ sprinters.

Last year he had the ‘misfortune’ of twice finishing second to a rampant Marcel Kittel. No shame in that considering the German superstar was in career best form.


Bunch sprints are the domain of the pure sprinter. It is where they earn their bread and butter. And yet, more often than not Sagan is up there battling it out, keeping the sprinting elite honest. If he gets his timing right he’ll start beating them too.

What must also be remembered is that this year his team, Tinkoff-Saxo, is dedicated to the general classification hopes of Alberto Contador, while his main protagonists on the flat lands have squads geared towards leading out their fast men

It has been a superb effort from Sagan and perhaps we need to reassess the way we classify him.

Indeed, could the fact that he has failed to achieve what was expected of him at the spring classics over the past couple of seasons indicate that we have classified him incorrectly?

There is no doubt that he has more strings to his bow than being just a sprinter. His general classification victory at the recent Tour of California proves that he is a more rounded cyclist than Greipel, Cavendish or Kittel.

But should that exclude him from being spoken about in the same breath as the other sprinters?

I don’t think so.


Yes, more difficult finishes or stages should suit him better than his sprinting rivals, but that also leaves him vulnerable to the more tactically astute. Tony Martin and John Degenkolb outpointed him on the cobbled Stage 4 (although it must be said that his first priority that day was looking after Contador), while Zdenek Stybar got away from him on the uphill finish at Le Havre on Stage 6.

His other top five finish this Tour was on the Mur-de-Bretagne, a steeper, longer end to a race where he will always be vulnerable to more accomplished climbers. That day he was gapped by Alexis Vuillermoz, and the experienced pair of Dan Martin and Alejandro Valverde.

Sagan will always put himself in the mix when it comes to the classics or races that have lumpier terrain than a dead flat sprinter’s paradise, but, as we have seen time and again, he is no surer chance to win those than he is a bunch sprint.

For mine he is closer to being a pure sprinter than anything else. When you get so close to the likes of Grepiel and Cavendish, how can you be thought of as anything else?