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Peter Sagan is a cycling legend. © SWP-2209

HERO star guest Peter Sagan: “I’m really looking forward to it”

Three-time road world champion and sports icon Peter Sagan answers five questions in the run-up to the 15th HERO in Val Gardena, which takes place on Saturday, and raves about the Dolomites.

The figurehead of the 15th HERO is three-time road world champion Peter Sagan. After an impressive career on the road with stage wins in the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta as well as in classic one-day races, the 34-year-old Slovakian decided to switch back to mountain biking, where he won his first world title in the junior category in 2008. On Saturday, June 15, he will take part in the BMW Südtirol HERO Dolomites for the first time. Sportnews asked the remarkable athlete five questions.

You ended your road cycling career after 15 years, three world championship titles, winning numerous classics and stage victories in multi-day races. Which three successes would you place on your personal winner's podium?

Peter Sagan: I find it very difficult to say which were the three most important successes of my career. There were so many happy moments and each one had its own meaning. I will never forget my first professional victory at the Paris-Nice in March 2010. I was just 20 years old at the time. My first stage win at the Tour de France in 2012 was also of course very important. My victories at the Tour of Flanders and the Paris-Roubaix were also exceptional, both of which are real classic monuments that are a dream for every cyclist.

Peter Sagan in the green jersey of the Tour de France. © APA/afp / JEFF PACHOUD

If I really had to choose the three most important successes, they would perhaps be the three world championship titles, but in no particular order because every victory is different. Winning the world championship in 2015 was special because it was my first. No matter what sport, winning a world championship title is one of the best things that can happen to you in your career. Winning the world championship in 2016 was unexpected. Of course, I start every competition with the aim of doing my best, achieving the best possible result and, if possible, winning. I am always very ambitious and always want to give 100%. But back then I didn't expect to win. The world championship title in 2017 had the special feature of being the third in a row, and that makes it valuable and unique.

You have only taken part in the Giro d'Italia twice, in 2020 and 2021. The second time you took part, you rode over the Pordoi Pass. What memories do you have of the Dolomites?

The Dolomites are spectacular and fascinating, but also really hard. It's a place where wonderful scenery is combined with real hard work. But the way the fans cheer you on along the route, even when it's cold or raining, is always incredible and makes you forget about your sore calves. In both of my Giro d'Italia participations, I really appreciated every moment on the road.

Peter Sagan is always good for a great show. © ANSA / MARTIN DIVISEK

You have also been seen in the Dolomites in winter. Skiing!

I absolutely love skiing and always try to find time for it when my sports schedule allows it during the winter holidays. A ski holiday is perfect for spending time with family or friends, relaxing and enjoying nature at the same time. The ski slopes in the Dolomites are some of the best in the world, with all the cable cars and many kilometres of slopes to choose from. There is something for everyone and the snowy mountain landscape is beautiful.
“The ski slopes in the Dolomites are among the best in the world.” Peter Sagan

In 2008, you became youth world champion in mountain biking in Val di Sole in Trentino – and are now returning to the sport: What do you like most about cycling on forest and mountain trails?

I like the feeling of freedom and adventure that comes with mountain biking. The direct contact with nature, the variety of terrain and the technique that you need to overcome the different obstacles - all of this makes every tour and every race unique and stimulating. Returning to my own roots always motivates me. And especially because we are always much closer to the audience in mountain bike races than in road races. For me it is an important factor that I can be close to the people who come especially to see us race.

The Slovakian was one of the best sprinters in the world. © ANSA / GIAN EHRENZELLER

Have you had a look at the HERO course profile? With its length to elevation ratio, it's the toughest marathon in the world. How do you think you'll cope?

Yes, I have seen the course profile and I know how hard the marathon is. It will be physically and mentally demanding. I am really looking forward to proving myself and giving it my all. But in my opinion it is not just the competitive aspect that makes the race interesting and fun. It is also the participation of thousands of people and the fact that so many other events are taking place parallel to the race. It is a real mountain bike festival!

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