Road race champ Peter Sagan switches gears to mountain bike

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) World road race champion Peter Sagan is switching gears at the Olympics.

He's also realistic about his chances on the mountain bike.

''Technically, I am not bad. I am not here to lose,'' Sagan said. ''Can I win? If I lose, I am not disappointed. If I win, it's so good.''

One of the world's most respected riders, Sagan has the resume to back up a flamboyant personality, with three stage wins in the Tour de France this year. The Slovak cyclist clinched the best sprinter's green jersey for the fifth consecutive time.

He is also a fan favorite for his movie star looks, with long hair and five o'clock shadow. Sagan looked the role on Tuesday with his hair pulled back in a bun and sunglasses resting on his head as he walked on to a stage.

''Slovakia has never had a such a big sports star like Peter,'' Slovak Olympic Team spokesman Lubomir Soucek boasted during a news conference.

Sagan is also aware of his limitations.

In January, he tested the road course in Rio de Janeiro and determined that it was too hilly for him to contend. He made the decision then to switch to mountain bike.

In June, the Slovak Olympic Committee made it official and awarded Sagan its sole lone starting spot for mountain bike for Rio.

A dream that was dashed in London in 2012 was fulfilled four years later. The 26-year-old Sagan isn't entirely a stranger to mountain biking since he was a junior champion in that discipline.

''I raced the road race in London and I already wanted to race mountain bike there but it was not possible,'' Sagan said Tuesday. ''For sure, it's a big dream for me.''

After the Tour de France, Sagan started getting ready for Rio with altitude training in Utah and Wyoming. He blew away the competition at the Pierre's Hole 50 .

The men's mountain bike race on Sunday won't be quite as quaint. Switzerland's Nino Schurter and France's Julien Absalon are the top favorites .

But competing on the mountain bike isn't just about winning for Sagan.

''I have not raced mountain bike in seven years. A lot of things have changed,'' he said. ''I'm here for more personal (reasons). I want to try. ... I will give the maximum for sure.''

Sagan also has no regrets about skipping the road race, won by Greg van Avermaet of Belgium on Aug. 6.

''I'm surprised in the victory of Greg,'' he said. ''But the road race in the Olympics is a strange race. There is not a strong field, it depends on the legs, it depends on the luck.''

Van Avermaet, Sagan added, ''was also a bit lucky due to the crash involving the others, but the Olympic gold medal is for all of life.''

---

Online:

AP Summer Games site: http://summergames.ap.org/

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.