Peter Sagan awarded Slovakia's sole Olympic Games mountain bike spot

The Slovakian Olympic Committee has confirmed that Peter Sagan will swap selection for the Olympic road race for a place in the cross country mountain bike race in the hope of taking a medal.

The Tinkoff rider first revealed he was against riding the hilly road race after seeing the circuit in Rio in January. Sagan is a former Junior world mountain bike champion and added some mountain bike racing to his race programme this spring. After completing the Tour of California, Sagan recently spent time training at altitude in Park City, Utah, in the USA, mixing road work with regular rides on fat tyres.

Slovakia was hoping to secure a wild card place to the mountain bike race but qualified 15th in the final rankings, securing one place in the 50-rider field. The reallocation places were awarded to Guam, Hungary and Russia, forcing Slovakia to find an alternative way to have Sagan in the men’s cross country mountain bike race.

Between his Tour of Flanders victory and heading stateside, Sagan chose to ride the Grazer Bike-Opening Stattegg in Austria on April 24 and the Czech Strabag MTB cup on April 30. He crashed and failed to finish his debut but rode to fourth place in the Czech Republic, securing enough ranking points to allow him to compete in Rio.

"This nomination came by mutual agreement of the Commissions of the relevant disciplines. Everyone thought that Peter Sagan, as world champion will start the road race. However Peter offered his place in the road event in exchange for place in the cross country mountain bike race," Peter Privara, the president of the Slovak Cycling Association was quoted as saying in a statement from the Slovakia Olympic Committee.

"After finishing the Tour de France, Peter will do some a special training for four weeks. He will not go to Rio just to take part but to aim for a good position."

Sagan is expected to target stage victories and the green points jersey at the Tour de France in July before turning his attention to mountain biking. The mountain bike events are on Sunday August 21, near the end of the Rio Olympics, giving Sagan four weeks to work on his mountain bike skills.

The Slovakian Olympic Committee confirmed that Martin Haring and Patrik Tybor will ride in the road race, with Sagan taking the sole place in the mountain bike race. Michal Lami and Martin Haring are the two reserves. Lami is ranked 32nd in the UCI cross-country rankings. 29 year-old Haring is a mountain biker but also competes on the road with the Dukla Banska Bystrica Continental team.

"We have long considered and thought about all the ‘pros and cons’ of the nomination committee of mountain biking. The aim is to give Slovakia the best possible result. Peter Sagan in the past managed to win the world title in mountain biking, so his chances of a good outcome are realistic. At the moment, I can confirm that support for the plan from of all nominees," the head of the mountain bike Commission John Žilová was quoted as saying in a statement from the Slovakia Olympic Committee.

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