In the seven years that bookend Peter Sagan's 16 stage wins at the Tour de Suisse, the current World champion has achieved cult-like status. In 2011, when he caught and then beat the hapless Damiano Cunego on the road to Grindelwald to take stage 3 of the race, the hair was a little shorter, the kit a little more fluorescent, but the on-bike swagger that has epitomised his career was already evident.
On Sunday evening, as he strode into the press room in Frauenfeld to greet the media at the end of stage 2 he was immediately reminded of his first win, his 15 since, and the 105 wins he has already garnered by the tender age of 28.
"I'm very happy and I have to say thanks to all my teammates because they did a great job and it's very nice to start like this," Sagan opened with.
"We did [the circuit] four times and during the first and second laps I started thinking about what tactics we can do and, in the end, I just decided we were going full gas on the final climb."
The stage could have played out in a number of different ways. Sagan still probably would have won. In those hectic moments where tempers flare and mistakes quickly mount, Sagan is in his element. His anticipation is one of his greatest skills and when Fernando Gaviria launched his sprint with 300m to go and almost caught everyone by surprise it was only Sagan who had the wits and the will to follow.
As the Colombian faded in the tailwind, Sagan came through the middle of the road to take his first win since Paris-Roubaix. The race's media press conductor, who was more compere-cum-comedian than qualified questioner, attempted to probe the world champion on the hectic finale and why with 500m to go Sagan looked to be out of contention after his Bora-Hansgrohe team had done so much work to drop the pure sprinters.
"Not just Gaviria. I wanted to make it harder for all of the sprinters and after that we were just going to see what happens with 1.5 kilometres or so to go we decided to go full gas, stay in the group or continue to pull but it was dangerous - there were lots of attacks in the front but my teammates organised everything and they were in the front group when it came together again.
"In the end, it went very well and I'm very happy to be first. After today and yesterday's time trial we can be a bit more relaxed and focused on good training and maybe for the next stages.
"I was thinking every lap how to win this stage. It was a small group [in the end] with no real lead-outs for the sprinters, there was no real train to make the sprint. I was only really watching two guys, Matthews and Gaviria. Matthews had two [other] riders in front and Gaviria was behind me. I tried to anticipate his sprint and Fernando started at 350 metres or 400 maybe, which is pretty long and I knew after 2 metres, I knew it was going to be difficult to catch him. I was a little lucky as there was a headwind in the sprint and I could beat him in the end."
Luck played some part, of course, but this was yet another demonstration of Sagan's abilities to outshine another world-class field. At times he seems to be Cruyff-like and able to see pictures, gaps, and moves that no others can. It's now 16 wins and five more than the likes of Fabian Cancellara and Hugo Koblet.
"Every victory is special, it is already special as it is the first stage at Tour de Suisse and now we can focus on the race in a different way, it's good for the team but more important things are coming."
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