Sagan's two stage wins underline huge potential
If you hadn't heard of Slovakian sensation Peter Sagan before the start of the 2012 Tour de France, you will have heard plenty about him by the end whether he ends up in the green jersey in Paris or not says Matt Ogborn.
The 22-year-old has already announced himself to the cycling world with a gutsy victory in Stage 1 and impudent Stage 3 win, however his pedigree goes back to his youth when he excelled on road and, especially, mountain bikes.
His talent was so exceptional at an early age that he won the Slovak Cup on a supermarket bike with dodgy brakes borrowed off his sister.
2008 was a banner year for the hugely talented kid with the Junior World Championship mountain bike title in Vale di Sole, second place at the Cyclocross Junior World Championships in Treviso and a Junior Paris–Roubaix victory.
Quick Step were persuaded by that form to get him testing on the road, but they passed which played into Liquigas' hands when they swooped in 2010 with a two year-contract that included a mountain bike option for Cannondale. Thankfully for Sagan, he had older brother and fellow sprinter Juraj alongside him at the Italian outfit to help settle.
Points victories at Paris-Nice and the Tour of California soon followed, the 2011 Giro di Sardegna and Tour de Pologne overall victories indicating that he could be more than just a pure sprinter for the Grand Tours.
He defended his Tour of California green jersey that same year, added the Tour de Suisse points honour and claimed his first Grand Tour wins with three stages at the Vuelta a Espana.
Sagan had been given the monikers the Terminator and Rambo by his team and the peloton on the back of this scintillating form, the 2012 season one in which he was expected to step up another level.
Five stage wins and another successful defence of his Tour de California green jersey was followed by four stage wins and a second Tour de Suisse points defence.
It was his fourth place in the Milan-San Remo and fifth at the Tour of Flanders, though, that truly made the cycling world sit up and take notice as the two monument races hold a great deal of prestige for the purists.
He was consequently earmarked as favourite for the green jersey at this year's Tour de France with reigning champion Mark Cavendish expected to take it easier than normal to save himself for the Olympics.
With brother Juraj not picked by Liquigas-Cannondale for Le Tour, his Stage 1 victory in Seraing where he trumped perennial stage victors Fabian Cancellara and Edvald Boasson Hagen underlined the bookies' faith.
When Tour legend Eddy Merckx announces to the world that he sees himself in Sagan's riding into the bargain, you know a glittering career awaits. After all Merckx wasn't called the Cannibal for nothing, a name now given to Sagan.
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