Claudio Chiappucci caused a stir recently when he argued that Peter Sagan was the only rider in today’s peloton with any character. Alex Peters, Team Sky’s new 21-year-old signing, would love to make the Italian change his opinion and as he embarks on his career as a professional cyclist, he has outlined his desire to create drama on the bike and leave his mark on the sport.
“I look for a rider that’s dramatic, who creates the race, puts on a show, someone a little bit crazy. You watch a bike race for the show,” Peters told Cyclingnews during Team Sky’s training camp in Mallorca.
In his early teens, the Londoner was intent on pursuing long-distance running but injuries caused him to switch to cycling. Despite the relatively late uptake of the sport, he used to watch races on television while growing up and was captivated by the drama and madness of the Grand Tours.
When asked which riders used to catch his eye, a mischievous grin appears on Peters' face and he responds: “I’m not sure I can really say.” There are, however, a few from the current generation who stand out.
“Chris Froome is really dramatic to watch – he gets dropped from the front group, then he makes his way back up, then he puts in a dig and you’re like ‘whoa why are you putting in a dig I thought you were gone'. Then there’s Sagan, he can do anything, he’s awesome. There’s the character on the bike, and then off the bike – he’s the full package.”
Peters may be, by his own admission, “a nervous guy”, but he's self-assured in his determination to stamp his personality all over his racing.
"It’s a nice feeling if you can create something, you know like [Marco] Pantani. Almost leave your mark on cycling in some way. I find you want to put on a show.”
'Whoa I'm wearing Sky kit!'
Peters signed for Team Sky last summer, starting immediately on a stagiaire deal. He spent the first part of the season with the Continental team SEG racing – also appearing sporadically as part of the U23 Great Britain team – after two years with British Continental outfit Madison-Genesis.
Team Sky hasn’t been renowned for signing young riders but this year they have handed a neo-pro contract to Italy's Gianni Moscon as well as Peters, along with bringing 22-year-old Danny van Poppel on board from Trek. Peters, who admits he had interest from other teams, was in no doubt that Team Sky was the place to launch his professional career.
“I think it’s the perfect environment to develop," he said. "There was no question in my mind joining this team. There were a few teams, but in the end with my agency we decided that this is the best team to develop."
“It’s the best team in the world. You look in from the outside and say ‘ok it’s a very professional team’. And that’s exactly what it is. You enter and it’s a very professional environment, but relaxed, calm. It’s a very good environment to be in.”
Peters admits to being overawed by the scale of the Team Sky operation as he looks around and notices how “crazy” it is that they have commandeered the whole hotel for the winter. Their logo has been emblazoned on the frosted glass of the ground-floor windows, their own chefs have supplanted the hotel cooks, and they have taken control of the digital signage – which flicks between riders’ schedules and urgent pleas for everyone to use the hand sanitizers.
“I had a moment on today’s ride, I was looking up and thinking ‘whoa that’s Chris Froome on a climb!’ then I looked down and was like ‘whoa I’m wearing sky kit!’, Peters admitted.
“He [Froome] is a big role model. He’s such a cool guy, really nice. You can speak to him… I’m a nervous guy maybe, but he’s an approachable character. How much I’m going to be seeing Chris this year I don’t know, probably not a lot. I’m in a position where I learn from anyone and everyone on this team, the soigneurs, mechanics, nutritionists.”
Reaching the end of the season fit and healthy
Peters’ first season as a professional cyclist will commence at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Australia later this month, and he will stay in the southern hemisphere to ride alongside Chris Froome at the Herald Sun Tour. He will then return to Europe for a month-long training block before doing the Three Days of West Flanders.
“It’s going to be a good way to enter the season running, really in top condition, because I think if I enter it any less I just won’t stack up in the races,” he told Cyclingnews.
As with many first-year professionals, his goals for the season are modest. Learning experiences rather than results are the focus, and just getting through to the end of the year relatively unscathed would be a victory in itself.
“If I get to the end of the season and I… if I’ve not come away with any injuries or bad illnesses, or health problems, and I’m just fit and healthy and ready to race and do my job well, and everyone in the team is happy, that would be the perfect season," says Peters, acknowledging the challenge posed by going from 40 race days to around 75 tougher and longer race days.
"I do believe I need to understand what I’m capable of. I could be a climber in training but it might be different in racing," he added.
"Maybe I say ‘I really want to be a GC rider', but I’ve never been in that environment where I can go in a week-long race and hit a really long climb, so I’m really untested."