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Ernesto Colnago: Merckx was unique and only Pogacar can perhaps equal his success

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) switched between disc and rim brakes in 2021
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Ernesto Colnago has suggested only Tadej Pogačar can go on to equal the success of Eddy Merckx saying that the 23-year-old UAE Team Emirates rider has still to discover his limits and ability as a rider despite having won the Tour de France for a second time along with victories at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia in 2021. 

Colnago admitted that he loved Pogačar "like a son” when the Slovenian visited the Colnago headquarters in Cambiago near Milan on Thursday for the Italian bike brand’s traditional Christmas event. Pogačar has won both of his Tours de France on Colnago bikes. UAE Team Emirates will ride Colnago bikes again in 2022 equipped with Campagnolo components. 

Colnago worked for a number of riders and teams until creating his own brand in 1974. Merckx asked him to build a pair of wheels for the 1967 Milan-San Remo which he won and Colnago became his team mechanic when Merckx joined the legendary Molteni squad in 1972.

The bikes had the Eddy Merckx name on them but were built by Colnago, including Merckx’s famous 5.7kg track bike used for the 1972 Hour Record attempt in Mexico.    

Pogačar made history in 2021 by winning Il Lombardia after taking his second Tour de France and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and he impressed Merckx in the process.

"I have heard many times 'this is the new Merckx' without the conditions being fulfilled, but with Tadej I think we are really there this time," Merckx said when the two met at an event by shoe brand DMT in late October.

"Tadej is only at the beginning of his career, I think he can do better than me in some races.” 

Ernesto Colnago agreed. 

“We’re used to having lots of great riders visit Colnago and over the years we've perhaps greeted 1,000 riders. We’ve seen lots of the greats of the sport and a number of true campioni,” Colnago said during the event in a video published by Gazzetta.it

“Eddy Merckx was unique and only Tadej Pogačar can perhaps equal his success. That’s because we don’t yet know  real limits and his real ability. He’s talented but also humble, with his feet on the ground and a good guy. I love him like a son and he wins on a Colnago too!”   

Pogacar stood centre stage for photographs with Ernesto Colnago and other guests at the event and confirmed that his 2022 race programme will be built on targeting a third consecutive Tour de France victory. 

He is likely to ride second Grand Tour in a season for the first time in his career, with the Vuelta a España pencilled in for the later summer. A debut at the Giro d’Italia is being considered but will only happen in 2023 at the earliest.   

The final part of the season will include the World Championships in Australia, with his spring packed with Classics as well as shorter stage races.     

“Everything will be built around the Tour. There’s a chance I’ll ride two Grand Tours but we’ll see how my form is after the French race. I like the Giro and will ride it one day,” Pogacar explained, adding details to recent comments to Slovenian television about also riding Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders before the Ardennes Classics.  

He will again ride the UAE Tour in February and then head to Italy for Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo ahead of the Belgian spring Classics before then turning his mind to preparing for the Tour.    

“I’ve only ridden Milan-San Remo once before in 2020, I’m intrigued by the finale,” Pogacar said of the late Cipressa and Poggio climbs that often break the sprinters’ grip on the longest Monument on the calendar.

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