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Now in yellow at the Tour de France, could Peter Sagan ever go in search of overall victory?

Joseph Delves
9 Jul 2018

Swapping Green for Yellow: Is Sagan capable of winning a Grand Tour?

Now in yellow at the Tour de France for the first time after winning Stage 2, here's a look back at our analysis of Peter Sagan's chances of one day standing on the top step of the podium in Paris, written after his disqualification from last year's race.

Sent home from the Tour de France, could Peter Sagan return next year in search of yellow?

Whatever the wrongs or rights of Peter Sagan’s dismissal from this year’s Tour de France following his coming together with Mark Cavendish at the end of Stage 4 the Slovakian rider remains a phenomenon.

Now off the race, perhaps with a little of the lustre removed from his reputation, he’ll have plenty of time to contemplate his return to the largest sporting event in the world.

But he will be back, and when he returns could it be in search of the overall?

As it stands the next big race in Sagan’s unexpectedly reshuffled calendar will be the UCI Road World Championships in September.

Taking place in mountainous Norway, he’ll be looking to defend the Rainbow Jersey he won on last year’s pan-flat Doha course.

Despite the vastly different parcours, Sagan is likely to return as favourite. He can it seems win anywhere.

Despite being only 27-years-old Sagan has already claimed a number of significant one-day races, along with twice winning the World Championships, and holding titles in mountain biking and cyclocross.

Before his surprise ejection, in the last few years he’s also made the Tour de France’s Green Jersey sprint competition something of formality.

Able to win from a massed bunch, or a reduced field on an uphill trajectory, no other rider can touch him. Coming into this year’s Tour de France his unironic nickname was ‘Peter the Great’.

Both Green Jersey winners, despite the crash, Cavendish and Sagan continue to speak highly of one another. Before their contentious coming together Cavendish had gone as far as to describe Sagan as ‘a once-in-a-generation rider’.

'He’s super, super good. He’s making us all look like juniors,' he said of his rival in 2013, the year Sagan won his second points classification.

So good in fact it’s almost impossible to not imagine, ‘what else could Sagan do?’ With years ahead of him Sagan has time to fill in the gaps in his Classics palmares.

But what about a shot at the General Classification in the Tour de France?

It’s a crazy proposition, but people keep talking about it. And not just because of Sagan’s enormous talent, but also because of his love of doing things differently.

Batman versus Superman

From turning up to races with hairy legs, to skipping the Olympic road race to try for a medal in mountain biking, Sagan is never one to take the conventional route.

An attempt on the GC at the Tour is something his former manager Roberto Amadio has suggested might be possible, as have several professional riders who’ve ridden alongside Sagan.

He’s also already achieved a stage-race victory, placing first at the eight-day Tour of California in 2015 thanks to his all-roun capabilities.

Others say that to imagine he might make the switch is a joke, a Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor style mismatch.

One expert who comes down on the latter side of the argument is American Tour de France winner Greg LeMond.

'I don't buy into that transformation,' LeMond told Reuters following Sagan’s victory at this year’s third Tour stage.

'Peter Sagan has low body fat. What he could lose is muscle mass - and you have to live like a monk to do that.

'Sagan would have to lose four or five kg. And he shouldn’t do that.

'When you do that, it eats muscle away, it's very risky. You starve yourself to death for a long period, and it could work, but it can lead to depression, it's an unnatural thing to do,' he said.

With modern Grand Tour winners having to hone themselves down to an almost skeletal state, the chunky Sagan could struggle to reach the correct wattage to weight ratio.

Although big, he’s not carrying any excess fat. So, as LeMond says, losing weight would mean shedding muscle and sacrificing some of the power that he’s used to such devastating effect in recent years.

Currently Sagan can win hilly stages, and never looks troubled navigating the Tour’s high mountains. Still, that’s a long way from winning atop Hors Catégorie climbs.

He’s a great descender, and an equally good time triallist, meaning his Top Trumps card certainly has a diverse range of skills.

Still more than anything concrete it’s the way in which Sagan seems to make up his own rules that probably means people will still be talking about a hypothetical GC attempt, long after everyone has forgotten about his recent disqualification.

30 seconds sum-up - Stage 4 - Tour de France 2017 by tourdefrance_en