Peter Sagan gets his first win of the year at the Tour of Switzerland
Sagan beats Coquard and Kristoff.
Sagan beats Coquard and Kristoff.GIAN EHRENZELLER (EFE)

“Sagan is back”, shouts Bryan Coquard at the finish of Grenchen, and the French sprinter cannot hide the joy that comes from pronouncing those words, although the victorious return of Peter Sagan, winner of the third stage of the Tour de Suisse, suppose to it second place, defeat. And the joy of Coquard, and of half the platoon of the Tour of Switzerland, who stops and high fives with the happy Slovakian spreads through the nets like a wave and overflows, and the fans enjoy it. It is the 120th victory of his career, the 18th in the Tour of Switzerland, his favorite event, the first in the colors of the French Total Energies team, the first in 13 months. He is 32 years old. He has been on the WorldTour since 2010, and every year he has won at least one race.

And to those who acclaim him with that joyous cry of “Sagan is back”, the triple world champion (2015 to 2017), winner of Flanders and Roubaix, and seven times green jersey of the Tour, more than anyone in history, He answers with his deep voice and his always ironic tone, bordering on sarcasm. “It’s good to be back,” he says before giving another sentence to the encyclopedia of saganism. “But I haven’t suffered that much either, I’m used to losing and I’m used to winning, huh?”

Although his extraordinary regularity (he finished in the top three, without winning all four stages) gave him victory in the general classification of the last Tour of Slovakia, nine months ago, and even if he had won his national championship a year ago, Sagan , the most popular cyclist of the past decade, had not won an international race since his victory in the tenth stage of the 2021 Giro, 13 months ago.

Last fall and these winter and spring, in which he changed from Bora, his team in recent years, for the French Total Energies, Sagan went into a rut in a way that prevented him from not only fighting for the victory of the races but not even even keep up with the pace of the peloton. Convinced that it was a persistent covid, he underwent dozens of tests and treatments seeking to recover his being. And while he was suffering, his place in the hearts of the fans was occupied by the newcomers Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, the sagan of the decade. And only them, their relentless fights, were expected to turn the series of ordinary stages, those of the wind, the pavés, the plains without horizon or end, of the next Tour into extraordinary days. Now there will be three.

Get ready for the Belgian and the Dutch, who are surely looping through the last kilometer of the Grenchen sprint: Sagan, fifth at the wheel of Pidcock; curve to the left, interior of Pasqualon, of the Intermarché with his wheeled Kristoff; Sagan, very skillful, slips through an impossible hole and gets behind the Norwegian’s wheel; Pidcock, out of place, and also Aranburu, the Gipuzkoan from Movistar who takes that curve on the outside, and also the next one, and wears himself out trying to stay in the flow. But the current is far away. The current is Sagan, electric, who overwhelms Kristoff on the left 200 meters from the finish, a tenth of a second before the Norwegian starts his acceleration. Sagan wins. Coquard, who traces back from afar, second. Kristoff, third. Aranburu, fifth, after Pidcock.

The return of the Slovakian, to competition (he had not run since March), to victory, to the exhibition of his style, announces that he will seek his eighth green jersey in the Tour, the garment for which Van der Poel and Van Aert also sigh , and generates a new emotion, and a joy, in the big loopwhich begins in 16 days, on July 1, in Copenhagen.

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