1. Peter Sagan: Forrest Gump, he’s not
Peter Sagan made a bet with Liquigas boss Paolo Zani at the start of the 2012 Tour de France that if he won two stages and the green jersey, Zani would buy him a Porsche.
The 22-year-old Slovak got his brand-new car, by topping that bet with three stages and the green jersey in what was one of the most dramatic Tour debuts in a long time.
After Liquigas sent the “too young” Sagan to the 2011 Vuelta a España, where he promptly won three stages, the Slovak sensation made the most of his first shot at the Tour.
His three Tour wins were impressive in that they were across all types of terrain. His first came in stage 1 in Seraing, where he held off Fabian Cancellara and Edvald Boasson Hagen in a classics-style finale. Stage 6 was a pure sprinter’s course when he knocked back André Greipel and Matt Goss.
Sagan’s best came in stage 3 when he channeled Forrest Gump and won, galloping across the line ahead of Boasson Hagen on a grinding uphill finale at Boulogne-sur-Mer. With the pack fractured due to crashes, Sagan bolted clear with 200 meters to go in a dramatic run to the finish.
Revealing a bit of charm behind his sometimes-stoic exterior, Sagan joked that his teammates challenged him that he should “run like Forrest Gump” if he managed to win again as he knocked back pre-race favorites Philippe Gilbert and Alejandro Valverde.
Sagan’s multi-faceted skillset extends to the classics. In 2012, his classics campaign revealed the depth of his talent and provided a telling preview of what the world can expect this season.
Though victory eluded him last spring, he was fourth at Milan-San Remo, leading the pack behind the winning trio. He followed that up with second at Ghent-Wevelgem, fifth at the Tour of Flanders and a podium with third at Amstel Gold Race.
Sagan promises to keep adding flares to his finish-line romps. With his searing speed, unmatched power and Merckx-like ambition, Sagan will need to dig into his bag of tricks to keep coming up with new finish-line theatrics; 2013 should be huge for Sagan.