Peter Sagan tried hard to pass the spotlight.
In the giddy post-race interview just after winning the UCI World Championship Road Race in Doha, Qatar, Sagan attempted to get the press to interview his brother, and teammate, Juri Sagan.
With a shy smile and a shake of the head, his brother Juri said no, “He is the King.” It was a sweet moment between two happy brothers and, for the sport of pro cycling, the ideal winner of the coveted rainbow jersey.
Yes, Sagan is the King. His second conceptive World Champion victory rescued an otherwise bizarre, searing hot and fan-free event that went out into the empty desert before spinning around a ghost town on a artificial island.
As he has done all season long, Sagan brought his immense talent, exuberance, class and showmanship to a sport so desperately in need of a superstar. From Gent Wevelgem to Flanders to the Tour de France and Worlds, Sagan has won every kind of race in every manner possible.
It was been a tour de force. In place of the usual curse of the rainbow jersey, Sagan has worn the kit in style and he believed a season for the ages. Now, he has even doubled-down.
Such is the prodigious level of Sagan’s talent, that even on a pan flat course loaded with faster sprinters such as Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel, he was still a popular pick. In his brilliant win, he again showcased an ability to read a race and react with absolute confidence.
When the race quickly blew apart in the crosswinds, Sagan was one of the last riders to make the front group that would decide the final winner. Vastly outnumbered by the six Belgians and a strong Italian group of riders, he stayed hidden and relaxed, bidding his time and saving his energy. Tom Boonen and company had played their cards to perfection, had ripped the peloton to pieces and controlled all seven of the high speed circuits around the Pearl. Meanwhile, Sagan just chilled in the desert, the coolest guy in Qatar.
Out of the 16 riders left in the front group,, only Nikki Terpstra and teammate Tom Leezer even dared to mount an attack on the Belgian dominance. However with 500 meters to go, Sagan timed his sprint to perfection, blasting up the right side of the barriers, beating Boonen into third and holding off the held-up Cavendish.
While Cavendish would have been a deserving winner and while sentimental fans pulled for a Boonen victory in his final World appearance, it is only Sagan who can continue to bring in new fans to a sport that continues to struggle with bad new and worse financing.
There is only one rider in pro cycling with star power of that magnitude. Chapeau Sagan. We’re lucky you decided to keep that rainbow on for another year.