Peter Sagan met Pope Francis in the Vatican on Wednesday, giving the head of the Catholic Church a special rainbow jersey and a custom-made Specialized bike.
Sagan was back in Europe after making his season debut at the Santos Tour Down Under in Australia. He travelled to the Vatican with his wife Katerina, baby son Marlon and his parents, who are said to be devout Catholics.
Some reports had suggested that Marlon would be baptised by the Pope, but the brief meeting occurred after the weekly audience in St Peter’s Square. The meeting was arranged by Volkswagen Italy and the head of Specialized in Italy Ermanno Leonardi. Sagan then visited the Sistine Chapel and spent the rest of the day visiting Rome with his family.
Sagan gave Pope Francis a replica rainbow jersey with 'Francesco' - the Pope's Italian name - on it. The Specialized bike is a custom decorated Venge in the white and yellow colours of the Vatican flag and decorated with the Pope’s name and the Vatican coat of arms.
Several riders and teams have visited the Vatican and greeted the Pope over the years, including Eddy Merckx and the Amore e Vita team. When the 2000 Giro d'Italia started in Rome, several riders had a brief audience with the Pope, including Marco Pantani and Mario Cipollini. It is not the first bike that Pope Francis has been given. In 2016, Ernesto Colnago designed a special edition for the Argentinian pope. He had previously given Pope John Paul II a gold bike in the 1970s.
Sagan is due to head to Spain's Sierra Nevada for an altitude training camp before resuming his 2018 season and preparation for the cobbled Classics at Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Watch the video of Sagan donating a rainbow jersey and bike to Pope Francis on the Youtube channel.
Listen to the Cyclingnews podcast below, and for more episodes, click here.