Reuters - Fri, 12 Mar 18:34:00 2010
Cycling's new phenomenon Peter Sagan has already dropped seven-times Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong on a climb and bagged a couple of stage wins in Paris-Nice.
The 20-year-old Slovakian caught everyone off guard on Wednesday to sprint to victory in Aurillac and an audacious move gave him another win in Aix en Provence on Friday.
No rider since German Jan Ullrich, who won the Tour de France aged 23, has made such an impression at such a young age.
"Now Slovakia lives with cycling," the baby-faced Sagan said.
"After my first win, three Slovakian TV crews went to my home and interviewed my father."
Sagan started on a mountain bike at the age of nine before moving to road cycling under the guidance of his father.
"At some point, I got fed up and I wanted to quit but my family would not let me, so if I'm there, it's thanks to them," he said.
In 2008, he became junior mountain bike world champion and finished second in the cyclo-cross junior world championships.
No wonder the prodigy can climb well.
At the Tour Down Under in January, just after Armstrong had announced he wanted to test himself on the Willunga Hill, Sagan simply dropped the great American.
"I am not as good as (Alberto) Contador," the shy Sagan said.
"Long climbs are too demanding for me now because I am still very young. But I like short and tough climbs. Maybe it's my speciality."
Sagan got his first taste of professional cycling last season when he was hired by the Dukla Trencin team, a Slovakian outfit in the Continental Pro (second) division.
"I had a trial with Quick Step but it did not work out and I then joined Liquigas," he said.
"On Paris-Nice, the team leader is still Roman Kreuziger but I don't have to work for him," he said.
"Today, I have no idols. But when I was a kid, I would love to watch Jan Ullrich", Sagan added.
Although he is too green for a first Tour de France challenge this year, Sagan has already shown he could be one of the greats.
"I heard before the race he might be one of the ones to watch," said France's Amael Moinard.
"Well, he is a genius."
Stage 6 - Saturday 1.15pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Stage 7 - Sunday 12.45pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player