Peter Sagan (Tinkoff Saxo) has an entire winter to debate whether or not he will ride with greater pressure on his shoulders next season but if the World Champion is adamant about one thing it's that he will line up next season with exactly the same racing mentality that earned him the rainbow jersey.
"Maybe it can be more pressure with the jersey next season, maybe not. Winning the Worlds was a great feeling and I'm very happy with the fact that I'm the World champion. It's the best result I could I have hoped for but I'll continue to race with passion," he tells Cyclingnews during an interview at the team's training camp on the Croatian coast.
"That [racing mentality] will not change. The only change is that I'll be doing it in one of the more beautiful jerseys in cycling."
The last few weeks of Sagan's life have been somewhat of a whirlwind. From Richmond he's gone back to Slovakia and enjoyed a hero's welcome; he's soaked up the heat in the Abu Dhabi dunes, spent time in Monaco, won awards, shared his views on world peace, had a holiday of sorts and ridden a camel. By the time he reaches the interview chair with Cyclingnews he's already signed two dozen jerseys and bidons, posed for photos and had a coffee with his agent and former rider Giovanni Lombardi.
"There's not been too much relaxing. After the Worlds it was crazy and then I went to Abu Dhabi but since then it's been calmer. I've had some time off in Monaco and it's been a week since I've ridden my bike. I'll take another two weeks, maybe three off," he says.
"Going home, though, that was great they treated me a like a superstar but I really don't feel like one."
Sagan is a rider who exudes confidence – sometimes it can wrongly be interpreted as arrogance, but for a rider who turned professional so young and generated so much success at a tender age, it's often forgotten that he's had to do a lot of his growing up and maturing while at the focal point of the sport.
"I'm no superstar," he repeats. "A superstar is an actor or a singer. It's something so different to me. [Lance] Armstrong was a superstar and the people knew him, in and out of cycling. I could be a superstar in cycling maybe but not outside of cycling. You have to keep your feet on the ground. No one can fly."
Sagan might not be able to fly but he can certainly glide, float and sail – his riding style the perfect marriage between brute force and sheer beauty that makes him one of the popular riders in the current peloton. Away from the bike he likes nothing more than an evening at home watching a movie with his long term girlfriend or spending time with friends. For Sagan, cycling has its place in his life – and it's almightily important – but there's more to him than just the ability to pedal fast.
"I don't read the media too much," he says with a smile.
"I live in cycling. When I'm at home I don't watch racing and when it comes to news, what do I need to know? I have my life outside of cycling. What's my life outside of cycling like? I don't know. You'd have to spend a couple of days with me but I'm training almost every day. So when I can I spend time with friends, my girlfriend and sometimes it can be a bit much for her, all the training, all the events that I need to go to so I make time for personal space."
Part of Sagan's stability can perhaps be traced to his relationship with his long-term girlfriend. "We met outside of cycling and she didn't know anything about cycling when we started to date. We don't really talk about cycling. I talk about cycling at the right times, if I'm in the bunch or at the dinner table with the team but I don't like always talking about cycling."
That point was certainly made clear when Sagan – albeit in slightly broken but admirable English – talked at length about world events after his win in Richmond, Virginia. Part of the message he says was lost in translation and interpretation.
"I was talking about the general problems in the world. We're living in a time where technology is leading. People don't live in the moment. Before, sport was about a few kids and a ball, just having fun. Now kids are at home playing computer games and people generally are just on Facebook, phones, Twitter and apps and there are so many things that just take over their lives. That's a problem for our generation.
"For me things were nicer when I was a child, when I was young. We didn't have mobile phones so you'd have to walk two kilometres to a friend's house just to see if he was home or not. Now you just text," he says, pretending he's tapping away on a cell phone.
"Then people are always on Facebook saying I'm here, I'm there, sharing everything on Facebook, it's just a waste of time."
There can be no time wasting for Sagan next season, however. It's an Olympic year and on top of that he will be racing with one of the most iconic and important jerseys on his back. The ambitions and targets remain relatively constant with the Spring Classics and Tour de France the two cornerstones of his campaign. The Olympics is also a major target.
"More or less, my racing programme will be the same as this year. I'll start in Argentina with San Luis. I've done that race twice and from there the important races will be Milan San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris Roubaix and then the Tour de France. That's roughly the same schedule as last year.
"Roubaix remains a target but from San Remo until Roubaix I'm targeting all the major races. This season I wasn't too happy with my Spring campaign but what I gained was more experience."
That unhappiness may have stemmed from 15-plus second places he accrued during the year.
"It was destiny, no? I don't know but it's racing and what's important was that I was always in the front and in the action. I was always there and sometimes I was beaten by climbers, sometimes by sprinters and sometimes by riders like me but the year ended with me in the rainbow jersey."
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