The incredible lightness of being Peter Sagan: From Issue 116 - Mind

Peter Sagan was a prodigy, winning big races early in his career and taking three world titles along with victories in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. He tells Rouleur why he is still motivated at 32

This is an abridged version of an article originally published in Issue 116 of Rouleur. Subscribe today to read in full and support our journalism

Few cyclists start a bike race to relax. But then Peter Sagan is not your everyday cyclist. The boy-wonder-turned-superstar may not be winning as many races as he once did, but he remains one of the biggest names in the sport. And it goes without saying that he is still an A-list star with every fan, race organiser and sponsor. And quite often, it is still Sagan who gets the greatest applause.

But that does not make things easy for Sagan himself, as the 32-year-old Slovak is the centre of attention everywhere he goes. Fans wait for him at every hotel, while sponsors often want to meet with him before the race. And then, of course, he must find time to prepare for the race at hand with the traditional massage, team meetings and equipment checks. From the outside looking in, it looks like there is constant chaos and never a moment of peace.

Many would crack under the relentless stress. And yet Sagan’s response is simple: keep it light. ‘Why so serious?’ has become his personal mantra, while ‘We will see’ has long been his go-to response to journalists and race announcers. But while such phrases can appear trivial, Sagan is anything but superficial – he is still very much the same as the kid who first got into cycling to have fun, and he has the maturity to understand that no matter how good he is, he is still only a bike racer.

Peter Sagan

He sees himself as an entertainer, an actor, whose stage is the roads of the  world’s biggest bike races. Journalists and fans can spend hours analysing the results of a race, but not Sagan. Once he has crossed the finish line, the page is turned and it is back to the team bus for a quick shower before moving on to the next event. Unless of course, he wins. On those days, he savours the moment and enjoys the fans, knowing that he has put on a good show. Victory, of course, matters, but Sagan thinks firstly in terms of the performance. And things never get too serious. For Sagan, lightness is a virtue. It is a thing of beauty and it is something that he strives to maintain. It did not always come easily. But as he enters the autumn of his career, Sagan’s incredible lightness of being may well be one of his most enduring qualities.

My life is not controlled chaos. It is just chaos.

I always have something to do, someone to meet. It was not always easy for me when I was younger. There were times when I would just be so wasted from all of the requests that I didn’t even have time to send a text message to my family.

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Sometimes I preferred to stay in my room rather than go down and eat. But I have got better at dealing with everything. I have a great support crew around me that really makes my day-to-day life easier. But it is always dangerous when fame comes quickly to a young guy, and it took me time to understand how to deal with it. For everything you need time. And I am just Peter Sagan. What is it like for a famous singer or actor? That said, I cannot complain.

‘Why so serious?’ is my motto.

It is something I believe and something that has helped me in my career. It has helped me keep things in perspective. To be serious at a certain level is okay. And it is important. But it is easy to overthink things as well. Quite often things happen that are just out of your control. If you are too serious, well you can just take the fun out of things.

It is important to give something back.

Winning the first race is always easy, but over time it gets harder and harder to repeat. Winning the race is one thing, but you have to understand that a lot of people come to the race because of you, and it is important to spend time with them. When you understand that, you become a real champion. Sure, you can win a lot of races, but if you don’t give something back, people will just forget you. People will remember you not just for the races you won, but they are going to remember you for how you were outside of the race as well, if you are arrogant to people.

If you think that cycling is just about you, that the only thing that matters is your result, well, as soon as you finish your career, you are done. You have nothing to say to the world. You cannot forget how important the fans are to the sport and having a rapport with them is so important.

If I win another monument or world championship, I think it is going to be the end of my career.

You have to finish big! When I was younger I often said I didn’t want to become 30 years old on a bike, and now I am past 30. But right now I am focused on winning.

Buy Issue 116 to read the full article.