The overly flamboyant manner in which Peter Sagan crossed the line at the prestigious Ghent-Wevelgem race this week got many cyclists remarking upon his versatility and ability to win many types of finishes. Is he a once in a generation talent? Or should I bring up the cynic's explanation; average talent multiplied by drugs?
If we study his strengths, they are about as diverse as any clean cyclist ever. Let's look through some examples in the current peloton:
Another man who can sustain a high power output for the final thirty kilometres of a race, and custom built for cobblestones. Boonen's second strength in sprinting. The two strengths are somewhat linked through their need of high power, which Boonen provides.
This man can sprint with the best, he can climb hills with the best and can ride cobblestones with the best, although he rarely applies himself to the latter. The likelihood is that Sagan is a rider of very similar structure to Boonen, who can win cobbled races and sprint with the best. However; past riders have taught us that it is near impossible to train for hill climbing and sprinting. Quite simply muscles have either fast twitch fibres which are perfect for sprinting, or slow twitch fibres which are perfect for the endurance required to ascend with the best. Riders can achieve a compromise and have an average ability to sprint and climb. But Sagan is up with the best in the sport in both disciplines. How does he do this?
Well, there is a very slim chance that he is indeed a talent the likes of which has not been seen before. There is also a chance that Sagan is biologically built for sprinting and cobbles, similar to Tom Boonen, and his endurance to give him the climbing ability comes from drugs. Any serious cycling fan will know that drugs to boost sprinting ability have so very little effect on performance that they are just not taken. They will also know that endurance boosting drugs, which will drastically boost climbing abilities, are (still) rife among cyclists in the peloton. They have just found ways to beat the drug tests. Much like a certain Mr. Armstrong...
Articles on Lance Armstrong: