Opinion: Tour glory too early for Sagan?

Paul Robson, editor of Cyclingnews HD, our weekly didital magazine for iPads, takes a look at Peter Sagan's recent success and asks whether he's a genuine contender for Tour de France glory or Olympic gold.

You can download the latest issue of CNHD, which contains loads more about Sagan's recent success at the Tour de Suisse, from the Apple App Store now.

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It seems like only yesterday that we were eulogising over Peter Sagan's Tour of California performance and wondering aloud just how far he could go. Well, after four wins in the first five stages of the important pre-Tour warm-up race the Tour de Suisse, we're forced to revisit the question.

No one can deny that both races are big races, and Sagan's 13 wins this season are actually more impressive than Andre Griepel's when one considers the races in which they have occurred. Nonetheless, they are not the Tour de France. What sets the Tour apart is that everybody arrives in peak form and everybody is looking to win. Even in an Olympic year, no one will be turning up in Liege for a warm-up ride.

The best of the best
What does this mean for a rider who has so utterly dominated his last two races? It means he will have to beat the likes of Mark Cavendish and Matt Goss in the pure sprint finishes, and Oscar Freire, Philippe Gilbert and Fabian Cancellara in any finales that favour the strong men. Sagan has the potential to do both in time and become the great all-rounder of his generation - the Sean Kelly comparisons are not without merit - but it could be that this year's Tour is too early.

What constitutes success?
For any other young rider facing up to his first Tour de France, a stage win would be enough to render it a successful debut. The same should be true of Sagan, and a win in this company will be a positive step forward for the Slovak, but the danger is that his recent success will pile expectations so high that anything short of a serious green jersey challenge will be deemed a failure by some.

Liquigas boss Roberto Amadio has said: "The only thing he cannot do now with the best in the world is climb big, long mountains." That looks increasingly to be the case, and a green jersey at the Tour looks inevitable, but it doesn't have to be this one.

And when the Tour is over, he can scrap it out with all his major rivals again, plus Tom Boonen and John Degenkolb, at the Olympic road race. Slovakia has never won a summer Olympic gold outside of canoeing...

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