Peter Sagan:
Superstar Made in Slovakia

He started out on his sister’s bike and now he makes 6 million a year. The story of the planet’s most successful cyclist.

Contains audio

In 2016, Peter Sagan became the world cycling champion for the second time.

ALBERTO CONTADOR, Spanish cyclist and Sagan’s former teammate from Tinkoff
“If we compared Peter’s skills to those of a football player, it’s like he would shoot a corner kick and then manage to run to the middle of the field and play the ball there. He can do everything.”
cycling legend and a five-time Tour de France winner
“He’s fantastic. I love him. The way he wins races is incredible. He never ceases to attack, he’s a complex rider. Indeed, maybe he can’t beat the best climbers when riding uphill, but he’s perfect at everything else. He’s on his way to becoming a legend.”
UCI president
“He’s a cycling superstar, showing interest not only in sport itself, but in everything else. He’s got charisma and he’s a thrill to watch. People love him. As a rider, he can win races on his own, and that makes him an exceptional cyclist.”
“I’ll aim higher than bronze medals,” said Peter Sagan in the season 2007 closing, when he was announced the cycling Talent of the Year. As of early 2009, he still hadn’t decided on whether he would specialize in road or mountain cycling.
As soon as the first weeks of his professional career, he got his first nickname – Rambo. In the second stage of the Australian Tour Down Under he fell and his wounds required eighteen stitches. Even though the then nineteen year old cyclist considered retiring from the race, he continued and came in fourth in the next stage.
Sagan was born a cyclist. He won races, confidently beating older competitors. “Despite his natural talent, he always worked hard in training, but what’s more, he was motivated. He never cried or complained. He craved victories,” said Milan Novosad, his childhood trainer.
Even as a child, he was able to understand sport as a kind of relax, as he does today. It was this, too, that enabled him to win. “That’s the grandeur of a sportsman – being one hundred percent prepared for a race,” said Peter’s older brother Juraj, with whom Peter took up cycling together.
The excellence of the currently best cyclist of the world can be easily seen in a hilarious story from the Slovak cup. He entered the junior race on his sister’s bicycle, as he had destroyed his previously. On top of that, he broke the frame of his sister’s bike the night before, trying it out. He had to pay a visit to a friend who welded the frame together. He won nonetheless.
The young Slovak quickly attracted the attention of the cycling world and instantly became known as one of the biggest talents of the professional peloton. These are the key milestones of his career.

Peter Sagan was born on January 26, 1990 in Žilina as the third child of Helena and Ľubomír Sagan.

He won for the first time in his life, triumphing in his category at a race in Žilina’s woodpark organized by the Salesians in cooperation with the Žilina cycling association.

Along with his brother Juraj (born 1998), he entered the Žilina cycling association where he started training under the leadership of Milan Novosad and Peter Zánický. Initially he was committed to both road and mountain cycling, as well as cyclocross.

The sixteen year old Peter Sagan won the four-stage race Through the Orlice Region, one of the most difficult junior stage races in the Czech Republic. He beat all the juniors, even those two years older than him.

He became the Slovak junior cyclocross champion. Later, he won the title of the country’s road cycling champion as well, with a lead of more than seven minutes.

In July he won the bronze medal at the European Mountain Biking Championship in Turkey. In December, he won the same medal at the Cyclo-cross European Championship in Switzerland.

The Slovak Cycling Federation announced Sagan Talent of the Year, recognizing the outstanding results of his first junior season. “I’ll aim higher than bronze medals,” Peter Sagan said when accepting the award.

On the day of his eighteenth birthday, he won the silver medal at the junior Road World Championship in Italia’s Trevis. In May, he won gold in the cross country category at the European Mountain Biking Championship in St. Wendel (Germany).

For the first time in his career, he took part in the famous Paris – Roubaix classic. He came in second in the junior category.

In June, he became the junior cross country mountain biking champion of the year at Val di Sole (Italy), breaking the Slovak record at the Mountain Bike World Championship.

Still a junior, Sagan became the Cyclist of the Year in the Slovak Cycling Federation’s poll, beating Peter Velits.


In November, he signed an amateur contract with the professional Italian team Liquigas, planning to cycle for the Slovak team Dukla Trenčín on the road, but to live and train mountain cycling in Liquigas.

He entered the ranks of seniors and managed to come in among the first three even in his first race. In March, he finished second in the four-stage race titled “The Paths of King Nikola” in Montenegro.

On May 30, he experienced his first victory as a senior. He won at the (currently discontinued) Grand Prix Kooperativa race in Dubnica nad Váhom (Slovakia).

In September, he signed a professional contract with team Liquigas, securing earnings of at least 33 thousand euro, as guaranteed for every Pro Tour team member. At the same time, he became a colleague of Vicenzo Nibali, the later champion of all three Grand Tours.

Sagan conclusively decided to continue his career on the road. “Great cycling happens on the road, with Pro Tour teams,” he said.

He entered the professional peloton. In March he achieved his first professional stage victory in the highest-tier, six-stage World Tour Paris – Nice, where he won the third stage. Later, he triumphed in the fifth stage as well.

Specialists agreed that since the times of the German Jan Ullrich, who won the 1997 Tour de France as a twenty-one-year-old, no young man has had such a great start in the professional peloton.

A month after Paris – Nice, Sagan wore the yellow leading rider’s jersey for the first time in his life at the Around Romandy race in Switzerland.

Aged 21, he started his first Grand Tour. In the two-week race Vuelta a Espaňa, he won three stages, including the final stage with a celebratory Madrid finish.

Sagan won in the overall ranking of the Around Sardinia stage race, as well as at Around Poland. During the year, he added eleven stage victories to his collection of successes.


His premiere at Tour de France. During his debut, he won the first classic stage – winning the first stage while participating on the Tour for the first time had previously been achieved only as far back as 1995. At the same time, Sagan became the youngest Tour stage winner since Lance Armstrong in 1993.

He achieved two more stage victories at Tour de France 2012, ranking among the best ten riders eleven times in total and winning the green jersey for the most active rider.

Sagan experienced a great season of spring classics. He fought for the first place at the monumental races of Milano – San Remo and Around Flanders, coming in second in the end.

He became the Slovak champion and added a second green jersey to his collection at Tour de France. Throughout the year, he achieved twenty two victories altogether, a feat no other rider managed to pull off. He finished the year off with the sixth place at the World Championship in Italy.

Although he didn’t win a single Tour de France stage, he wore the green jersey for the third time in Paris. After the tour, he announced his decision to switch teams, entering Tinkoff-Saxo owned by the Russian billionaire Oleg Tinkov. “I am one hundred percent sure he will win a lot of races with us,” Tinkov predicted.

Peter Sagan became the ultimate champion of the prestigious stage race Around California. He also managed to win two national titles when he won both the individual time trials and mass start races at the Slovak Championship.

In September, he became the world road cycling champion in Richmond (USA), winning the rainbow jersey. His outstanding victory saw him escaping the peloton two kilometers before the finish line, keeping the lead all the way through a very successful finish.

“Sagan is a beast,” the french daily L'Équipe reacted to his triumphs.

He won his first great classic – at Around Flanders, he attacked during an uphill climb on a cobble road, approximately 13 kilometers before the finish line. Not even Fabian Cancellaro, a two-time olympic and four-time world champion in time trials could beat him, coming in second with a loss of 25 seconds.

After the second stage of Tour de France, he became the first Slovak rider to wear the leading rider’s yellow jersey. Later, during his fifth participation, he won the fifth green jersey.

At the olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, he preferred to participate in the mountain cycling race. “The route of the road race is too difficult for me,” he explained. In the end, he finished at the 35th place after amassing a significant time loss due to two flat tire incidents.

On October 16 at the World Championship in Dauha (Quatar), he defended the title of the world champion. He accomplished this as the sixth cyclist in history and the first since 2007. He finished the year ranking as number one in the UCI World Tour.

Peter Sagan is a unique cycling phenomenon largely because he is able to win different types of competitions, collecting victories at both classics and stage races. At Tour de France 2016 for example, he ranked among the top three riders in as many as eight stages.
On top of that, he is capable of winning all year round. In the 2016 season, he won two spring classics in Belgium (Gent – Wevelgem, and Around Flanders), later celebrating success at Tour de France in the summer, moving on to win the European Championship in September and to defend the world champion title in October.
So far, he has won 89 times in professional races – a feat that no other rider his age was able to achieve during the past twelve years.
Ranking of 26 year old riders according to number of victories: (past 12 years)
Peter Sagan
Mark Cavendish
Marcel Kittel
Tom Boonen
Alberto Contador
Alejandro Valverde
Fabian Cancellara
Philippe Gilbert
André Greipel
Apart from the aforementioned skills, Sagan is an exceptionally skillful and brave downhill rider. Sitting on the top frame tube and leaning on the handlebars while still retaining stability is extremely difficult when riding downhill. Even some of the professionals cannot master this demanding technique. Sagan, however, happens to be one of the world’s best at it, clearly not afraid to take risks.
During the 2016 Pyrenees stage ending in a steep climb of Andorre Arcalis, his speed was measured at 97.7 kph. At times, the group of riders running for overall victory was no less than 20 kph slower. “I knew I had to do my best. Even if it meant dying,” Sagan said.

That's one of the reasons why he can win.

Besides his skills, Sagan’s advantage stems from his being an exceptional muscle type, too. He is neither a classic long distance rider, nor a pure sprinter. In the mountains, he has an edge on climbers, because he can outrun them later, during sprints. Only pure sprinters can keep up with him on flat stretches. Compared to them, however, he is not only more universal, but also able to keep his maximum for a much longer time.
While running for the first place at 2012’s Tour de France, he achieved a maximum power output of 1225 watts, which is not a high number. The German André Greipel can get up to around 1800 watts. Sagan, however, managed to keep an average power of 970 watts all the way throughout the last 200 meters – and that is, on the contrary, a significantly large value.
What is more, he has great technique and can control the bicycle like very few others can. It definitely helped him that as a junior, he rode mountain bikes. Thanks to his experience from mountain biking, he can more readily react to dangerous situations and avoids falls easier.
In the 2009 season, Peter Sagan had at his disposal two road bicycles and two mountain bicycles, the value of each reaching around 7 thousand euros.
In 2016, he used a specially designed Specialized Tarmac S-Works model, weighing 7,5 kilograms and costing around 9500 euros.
This year’s S-Works stencil featured the names of all previous world champions, incorporated in the lettering. The bottom tube was decorated by the Slovak national coat of arms.
The frame consists of 11r FACT carbon fibers of the highest quality. It is extremely rigid and light at the same time, weighing only 960 grams.
On top of traditional lever shifters, Sagan had a pair of small buttons installed on the handlebars, so he can shift gears while sprinting. The chain is shifted by battery-powered electric motors.
The crankset features chainwheels with 53 and 39 teeth, as most others do. The cogset offers chainwheels ranging from 11 to 28 teeth.
All bicycle bearings are ceramic, creating less friction and therefore less resistance as opposed to steel bearings, which also last shorter.

Servicing a bicycle like this amounts to hours and hours of work for the whole service team.

After the 2017 season, Sagan left team Tinkoff for Bora-Hansgrohe. The biggest factor was that he could bring in his own people – the sports director, trainer, teammates, chief mechanic and his masseur.
An interesting fact is that he earns more than the whole Tour de France peloton. 2.3 million euro was distributed between the 2016 season cyclists, while at the same time, Sagan himself earns around six million per annum in the Bora team.
However, his outstanding results are not the only reason why people love him. Sagan entertains them with different stunts he loves to pull off on the bicycle. He always has great numbers of fans around the track.

Fans love him.

The Slovak cyclist is admired for his lightheartedness, fun character and easygoing attitude.

He won the green jersey for the fifth time in a row at Tour de France 2016.

Peter Sagan will only celebrate his twenty-seventh birthday in 2017. “He’s looking at a ten-year career ahead of him and can achieve a lot of triumphs,” Brian Cookson thinks.
Peter Sagan: Superstar made in Slovakia
Andrej Kuzmány
Michal Trško
Dávid Tvrdoň
Miloslav Šebela
Production and development
Photo and video