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Peter Sagan: I think QuickStep never wanted me

Gent Wevelgem 2022 84th Edition Ypres Wevelgem 2488 km 27032022 Peter Sagan SVK Totalenergies photo Luca BettiniSprintCyclingAgency2022
Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) in the peloton during Gent-Wevelgem (Image credit: Luca BettiniSprintCyclingAgency2022)

Peter Sagan has speculated that QuickStep-AlphaVinyl's interest in his signature last year was more for press attention than a serious bid to add him to their roster.

The Slovakian moved from Bora-Hansgrohe to TotalEnergies for 2022, bringing with him several domestiques as well as several backroom staff members and bike sponsor Specialized. He was linked with Specialized-sponsored team QuickStep through the spring before Patrick Lefevere dismissed the chances of signing Sagan and his entourage.

In an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws (opens in new tab), Sagan said that Lefevere wanted to create attention for his team rather than seriously try to sign him.

"I don't know what Patrick thought," said Sagan. "That I would bring my group and they would only work for me? That's not true. I think Patrick never wanted me.

"Maybe he just wanted the noise. He created some attention with that and then disappeared. He told me it was hard to take Sagan because of my group.

"It was an easy decision," he added. "I looked at the proposals that were on the table and then I decided. TotalEnergies gave me what I asked for and QuickStep didn't."

Following the surprise move to the French squad, Sagan has had a slow start to 2022. The three-time world champion has 10 race days under his belt following a COVID-19 infection to start the year.

His best result so far has come on stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico, where he took fourth in the sprint, while at the Classics – Opening Weekend, Milan-San Remo, and E3 Saxo Bank Classic – he has been a largely anonymous figure.

Sagan said that the pressure to win is greater than when he started out his career with Liquigas back in 2010. He noted, however, that he is immune to pressure from outsiders.

"The pressure is greater. There is a need to win," he said. "The pressure comes from everywhere. Every year there are new rules about bottles and waste zones, data devices are put under our saddles, there are more races.

"Nobody can pressure me, only me. Another person can only tell me some facts, say what he thinks or what he wants. I have grown above the pressures, I have had them enough."

Salary and star status

The 32-year-old, today racing Gent-Wevelgem, reportedly earns a sum of over €5 million at TotalEnergies. When asked about the sum, reported on a largely inaccurate list by Italian website Calcio e Finanze, Sagan joked that he earns more than that.

He noted that in the early years of his career he turned down larger salaries in order to have his brother Juraj and his soigneur on the team, but that now he's paid according to his status as a major star of the sport.

"It's good to have it," Sagan said of his salary. "When I turned pro, I got the minimum wage. I could get a bigger contract after that and I said no. I said I wanted my brother Juraj in the team, and my soigneur. And then I rode again for a minimum contract. I had no big ambitions in terms of money.

"Of course, with the years and with what I've achieved as a cyclist in the meantime, I wouldn't race for that minimum wage anymore. It's about the balance, that I get paid for what I mean in cycling."

During the interview, Sagan's press officer Gabriele Uboldi interjected to compare Sagan to other superstars of the peloton such as Tadej Pogačar and Wout van Aert, saying, "There is not rider in the whole peloton on his level" in terms of personality and visibility.

The Italian, who moved with Sagan from Bora-Hansgrohe, noted that Remco Evenepoel could have the potential to reach that level of stardom, which led to Sagan drawing a comparison between him and the young Belgian.

"There is a difference between Evenepoel and me," he said. "I was not created; I did it myself. The way I see it, Evenepoel is created by QuickStep."

But for all the talk of salaries and younger riders reaching his level, Sagan still has ambitions left to chase as a rider, he said. He may have three rainbow jersey, seven Tour de France green jerseys, and two Monument victories on his long palmarès, but there's still more to achieve.

"I want to win Milan-San Remo," he said. "If I win Gent-Wevelgem one more time I might break a record [he's tied with Merckx, Boonen and three others on three wins].

"I'm not going to break the record in the Tour of Flanders [three wins] and Paris-Roubaix [four wins], I think. I've won the green jersey seven times at the Tour, and I still need to take that record to the next level. If I ride the Tour, which is the plan, I'll go for green again." 

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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.

Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.