Here we go again: another pro cycling star launching an NFT collection. This time it’s none other than three-time world champion Peter Sagan.

The Slovakian is no stranger to merchandising his own celebrity in interesting ways – remember that US$21,000 commemorative medal he was flogging a few years back? – but this new venture takes things (and certainly prices) to a whole new level entirely.

Before we delve any deeper into this very exciting news, let’s pause for a quick refresher on NFTs (or a brief introduction if you’ve managed to avoid this space so far).

NFTs – non-fungible tokens – are digital objects that can be bought, sold, and collected online and that are made possible by a piece of technology called a blockchain. Normally, as in the case of the Sagan collection, an NFT is a piece of digital art (sometimes with supplemental data), which is either one-of-a-kind, or limited in number.

Anyone can download or copy the digital artwork itself, but actual ownership of the original artwork: that belongs to whoever has paid for the NFT and has it sitting in their digital wallet.

If you’re just coming to the NFT discussion and this all sounds a bit odd, you certainly aren’t wrong. But let’s carry on.

Sagan’s NFT collection comes out via a new venture called Project Fuerza which makes digital art inspired by pro riders’ biometric data. In signing on with Project Fuerza, Sagan joins the likes of Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas, and Rohan Dennis who all have their own NFTs with Fuerza already.

At the time of writing, the Peter Sagan collection contains 23 pieces of digital art inspired by the data from some of the most important races in Sagan’s career. You’ve got this one inspired by his 100th career win, at the 2017 GP de Quebec:

Image: OpenSea. Artist: Ben Barnhardt

Or there’s this one from his win at the 2016 Road Worlds in Doha – his second of three consecutive world titles:

Image: OpenSea. Artist: Nick Hand

And the NFTs in Sagan’s collection aren’t exclusively cycling-themed. The Slovakian’s other interests are represented too, especially his love of American muscle cars. Here’s one such NFT, inspired by stage 5 of the 2015 Tour of California:

Sagan finished third that day, having delivered “not his best sprint”. (Image: OpenSea. Artist: Patrick Green)

And then there’s this anachronistic effort – entitled ‘Nature is Beautiful’ – which appears to have come straight from the 1980s, both in tone and treatment of the subject matter. Apparently “the shape of the woman’s body is the elevation line in [Sagan’s] power file” from stage 3 of the 2015 Tour de Suisse. Righto.

Image: OpenSea. Artist: Nick Hand

Sagan himself seems delighted about his new venture, judging by words attributed to him in a Fuerza press release.

“I love how my Fuerza NFTs have each been able to capture not only some of my passions outside of cycling, but also blow me away with the creativity of taking my power data and turning it into art,” Sagan absolutely did not say at any time, or in any form. “So many of my pieces are just so beautiful and I am excited to share these with my fans.”

Those fans though? They’re decidedly less excited. The tone of the comments on Sagan’s Facebook post announcing the NFT drop could best be described as “overwhelming negative”.

Here’s a selection:

  • “I am super excited to announce I am now no longer a fan.” – Val Notman
  • “You must be joking, right??? Utter bizarre nonsense and the fact that one of the biggest characters in cycling is promoting this stuff is quite disappointing, to put it very, very mildly.” – Axel van Soest
  • “Whelp… that’s the end of Sagan then! Jumped the shark” – Graham Auld
  • “Wow you are 3 months too late. No one is stupid enough to buy NFT’s anymore. The prices these are listed at are a SICK DELUSION.” – Dave Reid

What are those prices that Dave Reid mentions? I’m glad you asked.

The cheapest NFTs in Sagan’s collection are currently on sale for 2.3 ETH – around US$3,600 at today’s prices. The Tour of California and ‘Nature is Beautiful’ NFTs you saw above are both available for 7.5 ETH (US$11,950), while the Doha Worlds piece is 100 times that price: 750 ETH, or a cool US$1.2 million. No, that’s not a typo.

Believe it or not, that’s not even the most expensive NFT in the Sagan collection. That honour belongs to a piece called “Champagne” inspired by Sagan’s first Tour de France stage win, in his first Tour, and his first day in the green jersey.

Image: OpenSea. Artist: Patrick Green

As with all pieces in the Sagan collection, buying this NFT gives you access to the biometric data from that stage. But with this one, you get more.

“The owner of this artwork will actually OWN this data, not just have a license for it,” according to Fuerza. “Along with this, [we] will also include lessons from [Fuerza founder] Hunter Allen to explain the power file in depth, how to use the WKO software that best analyzes the data and is also available for the Fuerza experiences.”

The current price on the ‘Champagne’ NFT? A positively effervescent 7,474 ETH. That’s around US$11.9 million. Yes, you read that right. US$11.9 million.

A charitable explanation for this whole endeavour might be that Sagan (or more likely his management team) was approached by Fuerza and figured there was no harm in getting involved.

The work from their end would have been minimal: help suggest which races should be featured, send over some data files, and then make a percentage of every NFT sold.

A less charitable explanation: Sagan and co. got greedy and jumped on the latest tech bandwagon without realising how poorly received NFTs have been in cycling (if not more broadly).

Most won’t care about Sagan’s venture into the NFT space. A select few might be excited by the opportunity to pick up some Sagan-themed digital art. A good percentage, though, will say this venture has tarnished Sagan’s reputation somewhat. As we’ve seen, it’s probably already lost him some fans.

Who knows whether any of that matters to Sagan. Perhaps this venture will prove to be lucrative enough for the 32-year-old that any blowback will be inconsequential. But the early signs aren’t great. Since launching on the OpenSea NFT marketplace at the start of July, it seems Fuerza is yet to receive an offer on even one of its 1,500 NFTs.

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