Peter Sagan is finally making good on his threat to leave road racing behind and return to dirt. The news comes one year later than he’d originally speculated, but the Slovakian did use his recent birthday as an occasion to announce 2023 will be his last year racing on the road.
Instead of returning to the pro peloton, Sagan is aiming for the 2024 Paris Olympics mountain bike race. The Slovakian will use much of the 2024 season to qualify and prepare for the Olympic cross country race. He will still stay with Team TotalEnergies as he switches from road to mountain bikes. The French squad will still likely be quite happy to have their rider appear in the team’s “home” Olympic Games.
If he does qualify, it will be Sagan’s second Olympic appearance in mountain biking. The three-time road world champion famously opted to skip the road race at the 2016 Olympics in Rio to race on dirt. While Sagan was able to put himself on the front of that race, briefly, he was taken out by mechanical trouble. Hopefully, with a full season to prepare, we will see Sagan get a full race in Paris.
Sagan also made a brief “return” to mountain biking in 2022. He raced the electric cross country mountain bike event at world championships in Les Gets, though that effort seemed less performance focused. The Slovakian’s routinely ridden mountain bikes in his off-season, even squeezing in a ride with downhill world champ Greg Minnaar.
While Sagan has quite the race pedigree, including a junior XC world championship title way back in 2008, he could face a stacked men’s cross country field in Paris. Not just the indefatigable and occasionally unbeatable Nino Schurter, either. Mathieu van der Poel has unfinished business off-road at the Olympics. Tom Pidcock could return to defend his gold medal from Tokyo. Even if those two interdisciplinary stars put their focus elsewhere in Paris, Sagan will have a long list of top mountain bikers to deal with in 2023.