Sagan showed guts at Tour Down Under debut

Mike Turtur's first memory of cycling superstar Peter Sagan is telling.

World cycling star Peter Sagan (file) has come a long way since an impressive Tour Down Under debut.

World cycling star Peter Sagan (file) has come a long way since an impressive Tour Down Under debut.

The Tour Down Under race director tells the story of visiting the medical tent after stage two of the 2010 edition.

Sagan, in his debut WorldTour race, had suffered some nasty injuries in a crash on the way to Hahndorf and was about to be stitched up.

"I walked past, he grabbed me on the arm and said in broken English ... 'I start tomorrow'," Turtur said.

"I thought to myself, 'this young bloke has a bit of go', because he wants to make sure the organisers are aware of the fact he wants to start tomorrow.

"It really stuck in my mind."

Three days later, swathed in bandages, Sagan finished fifth in the key stage at Willunga.

It was one of the greatest days in the Tour's history, featuring an epic duel on Willunga Hill between newly crowned world champion Cadel Evans, compatriot Luke Roberts and Spanish stars Luis Leon Sanchez and Alejandro Valverde.

Just as Hahndorf showed Sagan's spirit, Willunga said plenty about his potential.

Eight years later, the Slovakian is the three-time defending world road champion and cycling's biggest star.

He is a showman, on and off the bike, and a fan favourite.

Sagan was the top international drawcard at the Tour Down Under last year when he returned for the first time since 2010.

He is back for the 20th edition and, like last year, Sagan will make a modest start to the season.

In Adelaide, Sagan's priority will be to work for Bora-hansgrohe teammates, Australian Jay McCarthy and NZ rider Sam Bennett.

As McCarthy notes, a rider could not wish for a better domestique.

"It's a pleasure for me to hear I'm the best leadout man," Sagan joked.

"For sure, we're here for Jay and also Sam Bennett.

"We will see what we can do in the race."

But Sagan's immense talent means he will keep rival teams nervous, whatever his January race condition.

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