We take a look at why Peter Sagan is number one in our 100 Best Road Riders of 2016
1. Peter Sagan
26, Slovakia, Tinkoff
2016 wins: 14
Few world champions have enjoyed the same success in the rainbow stripes as Peter Sagan did in 2016. Sagan enjoyed the best year of any world champion since Freddy Maertens in 1977.
He couldn’t quite match the 18 Grand Tour stage wins of the Belgian, nor the three Monuments and two Grand Tour wins of Eddy Merckx in 1972. But this isn’t the 1970s and it’s not possible to dominate the sport in the same way – but Sagan gave it a good go. Like in 2015, he took a while to get off the mark, but once he did there was no stopping him.
Even though he didn’t win a race until Ghent-Wevelgem at the end of March, the Tinkoff man was in the mix in every race. Second at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad; seventh at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne the following day. Fourth at Strade Bianche and then second overall at the shortened Tirreno-Adriatico. And he could have challenged for Milan-San Remo had he not had to avoid Fernando Gaviria’s crash.
It was after a torrid start to the 2015 Flanders Classics when people began to question whether Sagan was a busted flush at Tinkoff – even Oleg Tinkov himself threatened to cut his wages. But this year he began his dominant run with second place at E3 Harelbeke and an impressive win in Wevelgem.
The following week he became the first world champion in a decade to win a Monument, soloing to victory at the Tour of Flanders after a devastating attack on the final climb.
His traditional multi-stage haul at the Tour of California followed in May and then his traditional multi-stage haul at the Tour de Suisse came in June. His win on stage three in Switzerland was one of the best of the whole season; attacking with 11km to go to catch the breakaway and then not giving up until the finish.
As if dominating the first half of the season wasn’t enough, Sagan then got the Tour de France monkey off his back by winning his first stage since 2013 on day two, taking the yellow jersey at the same time. His three stage wins matched that of his breakthrough 2012 season, sealing his fifth consecutive green jersey in the process.
A remarkable 10-day stretch in September saw Sagan win the GP Quebec, finish second in the GP Montreal and then win the European Championships.
Such a season wouldn’t be complete without another marquee win, which Sagan delivered in style by retaining his world title against all odds in Doha in October. Even Merckx and Maertens didn’t manage that.