Peter sagan is late, and the crowd is getting antsy. About 50 kids, ages seven to thirteen, are eyeing a row of gleaming new Specialized mountain bikes that are about to become theirs—if and when this “Peter” kid shows up. Small skirmishes break out as parents try to restrain their offspring from lunging at the precious pink and orange rides.
It’s November 2016, and Sagan is in Southern California to host an exclusive charity ride. Two hundred fans have ponied up as much as $3,000 apiece to spend the weekend rolling and schmoozing with the
two-time world champion, from Slovakia who is the closest thing to a cycling celebrity since the days of you-know-who. The ride was supposed to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, including this bike giveaway to deserving local kids. But now the star and his entourage have gone AWOL somewhere on the grounds of the Westlake Village Inn, a romantic expanse of Tuscan-style villas, small lakes and bridges, and even a vineyard, which once played host to The Bachelorette.
Scanning the horizon desperately, the emcee, a young woman in a Boys and Girls Club T-shirt, grabs the microphone and tries a diversionary tactic.
“Peter! Peter! Peter!” she chants. A few kids and parents join in, but then the noise dies down, having failed to produce Peter.
The emcee changes tack and asks a more basic question: “Can anybody raise their hand and tell me who Peter is?”
After some awkward silence, one boy pipes up: “He’s a man who races his own bike!”
“Yes!” the host says, a little relieved. A little girl chimes in. “He’s Peter Pan!” Which is an even better answer, as we’ll soon see. Sagan’s rivals wish that he would be late more often, particularly at the finish line. Over the past two years, he’s usually been the one waiting for them—in the process, establishing himself as the most compelling and entertaining cyclist of his generation.
Sagan won the world championship road race in Richmond, Virginia, in September 2015, attacking the last climb and dropping his chasers downhill. In 2016, he came out strong and won two tough spring classics, Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders, followed that summer by three days in yellow at the Tour de
France. There he won three stages and took home his fifth green sprinter’s jersey in five outings. If he wins this year, he’ll tie Erik Zabel’s record of six in a row.