Blazin' Saddles

Showman Sagan shot down

The world of cycling was in uproar on Tuesday when Peter Sagan belittled the Tour de France by playing a game of Charades while coasting to another straight-forward win.

Instead of raising his arms aloft and smiling sensibly after having already crossed the line — as is the custom in the peloton — Sagan chose the immediate moment leading up to his second stage win in his debut Tour to continue an on-going game with his friends watching back at home on TV.

With the victory secure 20-odd metres from the finish after yet another display of brutal uphill sprinting, Sagan took time out to act out the film he watched on DVD the night before.

The Slovak Sensation™ had already, during the course of the day, picked up an intentional puncture in order to slink to the back of the peloton, gain some valuable air-time, and indicate how many words and syllables his film of choice was (in a special code undetectable to those who don't speak Velvet Samurai).

In an ebullient blend of multi-tasking, sporting excellence and light-hearted entertainment, Sagan looked over his shoulder, made an austere sign of the cross, and then moved his arms in an exaggerated running action while putting on a slightly gimpy smile. He then double punched the sky before finishing things off for good measure with a single right-fist clench.

Pundits and players of Sagan's game were divided on whether or not the 22-year-old's Monday night movie involved:

a) a shaven-head, slow-witted, fast-running Alabaman with a penchant for shrimps and table tennis;

b) another Tom Hanks demi-classic featuring a precocious con-man on the run from cops and a priceless Christopher Walken diatribe about two mice trying to stay alive in a bucket of milk; or

c) an Arnold Schwarzenegger classic about an opportunistic future-day gladiator driven to kill all those put in front of him after being wrongly labelled 'The Butcher of Bakersfield'.

Coming two days after his first piece of Tour cycling celebratory dexterity — the muscle-flexing "Chicken Dance" in Seraing — Sagan was obviously giving out clues in Boulogne for either Forrest Gump, Catch Me If You Can or The Running Man.

Saddles, who shares certain Slovak friends with the man they call The Terminator, believes the film in question for Sagan's game of Charades was in fact The Running Man.

You see, Sagan is far too talented and cool at a young age to ever accept Forrest Gump as a valid choice of DVD on a Monday night, while Catch Me If You Can was too slow-moving for someone as direct and clinical as the Tour's current runaway green jersey.

Besides, now he's known as the Tourminator — with a custom-made bike frame graphic to boot — Sagan clearly feels obliged to keep himself entertained with Arnie's back catalogue.

Saddles can't wait until the next time Sagan wins on the Tour — perhaps he'll cover his face with camouflage war paint and mime shooting the crowd with a SP1 rifle like Dutch in Predator.

Let's just hope his fourth win doesn't coincide with a re-enactment of Commando and the virile Liquigas speedster doesn't pull down his lycra shorts in anticipation of his latest podium girl conquest.

But seriously, the cycling world was split in two following Sagan's latest lesson in youthful audacity and cycling excellence. "It's terrible, he's playing games with us," said one critic, entirely missing the point.

Garmin's Robbie Hunter, meanwhile, praised Sagan for his "class" but added in a tweet: "can't say I enjoy his victory salutes in the face of his competitors!".

To which, Saddles would say, Tony Martin probably doesn't think too much about Hunter's crass bragging about taking the German out in a crash a couple of days earlier...

Saddles's good friend and collaborator Joe Papp was, bizarrely enough, one of Sagan's main critics on Twitter, claiming the double Tour stage winner "deserves every bit of venom directed at him as he's the one who's decided to emulate Riccardo Ricco and mock his opponents".

As much as Saddles likes Mr Papp, this did seem to be reading a bit much into what was surely a bit of fun. Was Sagan consciously emulating Ricco? Clearly not.

Sagan is simply having fun — and that includes winning stages with Merckxian gusto, plus having a bit of a laugh while doing so. Only a very small minority of riders in the history of cycling could ever pull off something like this — and it should be encouraged, not pilloried.

As far as Saddles is concerned, Sagan can win every day. We'd all be a lot more entertained than usual — plus our knowledge of films would go through the roof.

People say it's disrespectful to the other riders — but it's equally disrespectful to read anything sinister into what is clearly a young guy expressing his emotions in a playful way and enjoying being at the top of the game.

Besides, Sagan was so far ahead of the field, they probably wouldn't have even seen his Running Man/Forrest Gump/Catch Me If You Can routine.