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Peter Sagan's Tour de Suisse victory a signal of intent for Tour de France

GRENCHEN SWITZERLAND JUNE 14 Peter Sagan of Slovakia and Team Total Energies celebrates at podium as stage winner during the 85th Tour de Suisse 2022 Stage 3 a 1769km stage from Aesch to Grenchen ourdesuisse2022 WorldTour on June 14 2022 in Grenchen Switzerland Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

After opening his account in TotalEnergies colours on stage 3 of the Tour de Suisse, Peter Sagan can look to the Tour de France with rather more confidence. 

The three-time world champion had endured a wretched start to 2022 as illness ruined his Spring campaign but there was more than a hint of the vim of old as he sprinted to victory in Grenchen on Tuesday.

“It’s a just stage win,” Sagan said in the flash interview immediately after the finish, even if it was clear that this victory, the 120th of his career, was far from routine.

The 32-year-old wasn’t in the mix on the first two days of the Tour de Suisse, but he hit his stride on the third. His TotalEnergies squad helped to tee up the bunch sprint, and Sagan delivered a powerful finishing effort to beat Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) and Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) to the line. 

Has he turned a corner?

“I hope so,” Sagan said on Tuesday. “It was not easy the last four or five months, and also it’s not easy to come back after a long break without racing. I was really like three months without races. And before that, I was racing, but I was sick and stuff, I was struggling with what was going on with me. I don’t know. For sure it’s nice to win, but I hope I’m going to grow still for the Tour de France.”

Sagan hadn’t won a race of any description since he claimed the overall title at the Tour of Slovakia last September, and he hadn’t crossed a finish line in first place since he landed his seventh Slovakian national title almost a year ago. His last victory at WorldTour level, meanwhile, came on the 2021 Giro d’Italia.

In the intervening period, Sagan had been forced to abandon the Tour de France through a crash injury, and while his transfer from Bora-Hansgrohe to TotalEnergies last winter offered something of a clean slate, that new start was stalled by a second COVID-19 diagnosis in January and lingering illness through the spring.

Sagan was forced to abandon Gent-Wevelgem and then miss both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. He spent over three months away from racing, and then warmed up for the Tour de Suisse with an appearance at the Unbound gravel event in the United States and the GP des Kantons Aargau.

“It was hard to get back in racing mood after my sickness,” Sagan admitted. “But I was three months without racing, it just needs time.”

In his post-stage press conference, Sagan touched a little more on the issues that had plagued him during the opening months of the year and prompted him to end his Spring campaign after abandoning Circuit de la Sarthe in April.

“I suffered, it wasn’t good. I wasn’t recovering, even after flat stages,” Sagan said, according to L’Équipe.

Sagan will look for more opportunities to add to his record 18 Tour de Suisse stage wins this week, but he will also be reassured ahead of the Tour de France, where he lines out seeking to add to another weighty record.

He has won the points classification seven times at the Tour since his debut in 2012. Only once, in 2020, has Sagan finished the Tour without the green jersey on his shoulders and even then, he put up a fierce defence of his title against Sam Bennett.

This year Sagan will face opposition from Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) as well as from the pure sprinters.

“I’m here to prepare for the Tour, yes, but not just to stay in the bunch either, so I tried,” Sagan said of Tuesday’s win. 

“It’s a relief to win. But life is life. The important thing isn’t winning races, it’s being healthy.”

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Barry Ryan

Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.