World road champion Peter Sagan says he’s looking forward to Sunday’s Olympic mountain bike race, with the Slovak rider insisting “it’s going to be fun.”
The 26-year-old began his racing career in mountain biking – famously, he won the Slovak Cup on a bike borrowed from his sister – he later described it as “something like a mix of an old mountain bike and a road bike.”
But eyebrows were raised earlier this year when the 26-year-old, winner of the Tour of Flanders this year and who last month took his fifth successive green jersey at the Tour de France, announced he would switch discipline and miss the road race at Rio.
Winner of the junior world mountain bike championship in 2008, Sagan made his decision after undertaking a recce of the road race course earlier this year and deciding it was more suited to a pure climber rather than a puncheur.
After Belgium’s Greg van Avermaet took gold, UCI president Brian Cookson suggested that Sagan “may be kicking himself a little bit” at missing out on a potential gold medal.
Sagan certainly isn’t favourite with five-time world champion Nino Schurter of Switzerland and France’s double Olympic gold medallist Julian Absalon are expected to slug it out on a race that covers seven laps of a 4.85km course, which he has already taken a look at.
But he’s certainly looking forward to it, telling Reuters after his arrival in Rio: "Mountain bike is something different.
“No one knows what the hell to expect. But it's going to be fun.
"I don't hope for anything. I have not raced mountain bike in seven years. A lot of things have changed.
"I'm here for more personal reasons. I want to try. I don't expect nothing big.”
Sagan, who has been training in the United States, added: "The parcours can be good for me. Technically I am not bad. I am not here to lose. Can I win?
“If I lose, I am not disappointed. If I win, it's so good. I'm here for a result. I'm here to give my best."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.