Trying to draw Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) out at a pre-race press conference is not for the faint of heart. The three-time world champion has never shown a lot of love for the traditional media question-and-answer sessions that take place before every major race.
Seated on the Tour of California press conference dais with Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), Taylor Phinney (EF Education First-Drapac), Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), Sagan was happy to let the other riders grab the spotlight as he watched, listened and generally looked relaxed throughout the 40 minutes or so.
The few questions directed at him drew short, but not necessarily terse, answers from one of cycling's most popular riders.
Sagan, also known as 'the King of California' thanks to his race-record 16 stage wins, was asked about his favourite moment since his first race in 2010. For the record, he has a lot of them, but one does stand out.
"I have only good memories from the Tour of California," Sagan said. "Every year I took some stages and one year I won the GC. That was the biggest thing that I did here."
Sagan was referring to his 2015 win, when he saved his overall hopes with a spectacular ride up Mount Baldy, finishing sixth on the stage, 47 seconds behind Julian Alaphilippe. He slipped from first to second that day, but his ride up Baldy left him just two seconds behind the Quick-Step rider in the general classification – a deficit he overcame on the final day with a time bonus in the final sprint. He beat Alaphilippe by just three seconds to take the title.
Sagan took just two more questions during the press conference, both of which focused on his return to the Tour de France this year after being disqualified in a dust-up with Cavendish in the stage 4 bunch sprint.
Asked if he was excited for his return to the French Grand Tour, he answered in the affirmative – sort of.
"This year the Tour de France is a little later, and everything is a little bit changed," he said, somewhat cryptically. "Well, we are here and I think racing is better than training."
Pressed again about whether he had a point to prove this year in France, he was equally vague.
"I think the Tour is the biggest race during the season," he said. "And I think I should come back."
In California, it seems, Sagan is content to let his legs do the talking.
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.
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