Peter Sagan has criticised the “lack of respect” exhibited by younger pros after his disappointing performances at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, using a rather interesting example to make his point.
It was a difficult Opening Weekend for the three-time world road race champion, with Team TotalEnergies’ marquee signing trudging home in 98th and 117th in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne respectively, a shadow of the rider who lit up the cobbled classics throughout the 2010s.
Speaking to the Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, Sagan complained about “anarchy” in the modern peloton and said: “I first noticed it when as a leader in a stage race I stopped to pee. They kept on attacking, while that used to be a moment of rest in the peloton.
“The bathroom break just doesn't exist anymore. I saw it again in the Haut Var. You used to have the fixed time to stop to pee together.
“Now everyone is peeing from their bicycles. I then ask: Is that normal? I understand if you ride the final of say the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix. But at a dead-end in the race? You don't lose anything by stopping for a while.
“They don't even bother going to the edge of the road. No names, but they just piss in the middle of the pack.
“Everyone pees on everyone. Nasty. And if you say something about it, you're arrogant, so to speak, because you can't decide what someone else should do.”
The Slovakian, who for many years was the poster boy for a golden generation of male riders after bursting onto the scene as a precocious 20-year-old at the 2010 Paris-Nice, has seen his star slowly fade as a new wave of ever younger talent emerges at the top of the sport.
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This generational shift has led Sagan to hark back to his early days as a professional, when patrons (or bosses) such as Fabian Cancellara and Lance Armstrong imposed an iron grip on the peloton.
“Fabian Cancellara used to say a lot of things about me, very provocative, especially for the classics,” Sagan said.
“That always made me laugh, because it just meant he was getting really nervous about me. When the journalists came to me with his statements, I always replied: ‘Fabian is my idol. I can't say anything bad about him’.
“Back then it was the older riders who talked a lot, now the younger generation does too.
“Then I think: okay, you are strong, a ‘champ’, whatever. But you are younger. The younger generation lacks that respect. You see, you feel that. In the past you had the unwritten laws in the race. Now, forget it. There is total anarchy there.”
Of course, this debate certainly isn’t new – Sagan, who has also been criticised in the past for some arguably reckless riding, has on a number of occasions lamented the lack of control and self-policing in the modern peloton.
At the 2016 Tour de France, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix winner blasted the “brainless” actions of some of his fellow sprinters.
“Now it’s very hard to enjoy the bike in the race because when I did my first Tour de France it was a different race,” he said. “Now in the group everybody is riding like they don’t care about their life — it’s unbelievable!
“It’s not logical. In the group, before there was respect. When someone did something stupid, everybody throws their [water] bottle on him or beats him with [tyre] pumps.
“But now cycling has lost this. When I came in cycling in 2010, it was a little bit different.”
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Sagan’s example isn’t the first time that respect in the peloton has been linked to bodily functions. During a stage of the ill-fated 1967 Tour de France, new professional Colin Lewis was asked to give his coveted cotton racing cap to his Great Britain team leader Tom Simpson.
“Why?”, Lewis asked the former world road champion. Simpson replied: “I want to have a shit in it”.
To add insult to injury, after the deed was done Lewis then had to tow his leader back up to the bunch. Respect.
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