The phrase Peter Sagan repeats most in his autobiography is a glib encapsulation of his philosophy on racing and life: “Why so serious?”
Well, this season things had gotten very serious indeed. He wasn’t winning, made little impact in his top objectives, Flanders or Roubaix. His coach Paxti Vila wondered if they’d somehow made a mistake in his training. Sponsors were nervously questioning their investments and Team Sagan (as Peter likes to call it) had become a pressure cooker.
Then came Colmar.
Stage five in the Alsace region proved to be an ideal race course to turn things around. A hilly, grippy stage that chewed up and spit out the pure sprinters like Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Andre Greipel (Arkéa Samsic) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma). It was a stage guaranteed to exhaust even a fastman with decent climbing legs.
Sagan had his Bora-Hansgrohe squad working on the front for the category 2 Cote des Trois Epis and the category 3 Cote des Cinq Chateaux to make sure the misery was magnified.
Same strategy for sprinter Michael Matthews of Sunweb, who had built up his climbing legs to the detriment of his sprint in anticipation of working for Tom Dumoulin. Matthews began the Tour de France with the wrong training but this was one stage that suited his new-found ascending skills.
In fact, it was Matthew’s Sunweb squad that did the majority of the work, often putting three or four riders at the head of the race to kill off the likes of Caleb Ewan. It there was ever a stage where intent was crystal clear it was Matthews, Sunweb and Colmar.
The Sunweb strategy was largely executed to perfection but that still left a rather large problem — an exceedingly famished three-time World champion by the name of Peter Sagan. He was a concentrated mix of motivation and desperation.
Yes, Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton Scott) was well positioned. Yes, the precocious Wout Van Aert (Jumbo Visma) was ready to pounce. Yes, the so-called poor man’s Sagan, Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) had made the final selection — and yes, even classics hardmen like Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) were going all-in.
However, only Sagan who knew exactly how to master the final kilometers into Colmar.
In the end, it looked remarkably easy and inevitable. He made sure he was fifth coming through the fast sweeping S turns before the finish, perfectly positioned for surveying his rivals and picking an ideal line. He opened his sprint and was instantly at a speed nobody could match, winning by over a bike length.
Wout Van Aert somehow threw his bike past Trentin to steal second place but Sagan was a clear and dominant winner. He did his Hulk impression and looked thoroughly pleased.
So all is well in the world of Peter Sagan — a stage win the the Tour de France, yet another green jersey well in hand and all doubts and second guesses erased. To translate that into Peter-Speak — Why so serious?