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Indurain says Pogacar’s second Tour victory 'makes him the reference point'

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

Five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain has said that Tadej Pogačar’s second victory in cycling’s top race makes the Slovenian the man to beat in the years to come in July.

Until this summer, Indurain was the only rider in over three decades to have won both his first and second Tours in successive years, a feat now also achieved by Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) in 2020 and 2021. Since Indurain's last victory in 1995, Alberto Contador, Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Pogačar are the only riders since to have won the Tour twice.

“Winning one Tour can be considered a surprise,” Indurain told El Mundo Deportivo, “but winning two makes him the reference point.” 

Nor was it a straightforward Tour to win this summer, Indurain added, which strengthened his personal conviction that Pogačar was here to stay: “He’s known how to get through a Tour where there were a lot of crashes and difficult moments.” 

Listing the Slovenian's strong points, Indurain described Pogačar as "a quality, hot-blooded rider who likes attacking from a long way out, and goes well in time trials…he starts the year winning and ends it winning. He’s a courageous rider who’s strong throughout the entire year. His rivals are going to have a hard time.”

However, although Indurain tipped Pogačar as the key reference point for the Tour, he warned against putting excessive pressure on Spain’s younger generation in the face of Alejandro Valverde’s (Movistar) imminent retirement. He also described himself as a “[Greg] Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën) fan because he fights in all sorts of different races,” but insisted that no one male rider currently dominated cycling across the board and in all its road-racing disciplines.

“Here in Spain we’ve got Valverde, who’s still at a good level, but he’s not what he was. And then there’s those who come straight after him, the Izagirre's [Ion and Gorka], [Mikel] Landa [Bahrain Victorious] or [Enric] Mas [Movistar] but also riders like [Marc] Soler [Movistar], or Juan Ayuso [UAE Team Emirates].

“But there’s a big change, generationally speaking, right now, and at an international level, you can see that in particular. We’re putting our young riders under a bit of pressure because we can see Valverde’s retirement is coming soon and we want them to hit the ground running. But there’s a lot of competition, you have to learn how to race in each category because they are all different.

“They’re high quality racers, who have to continue to progress in the way they have up to now.”

Indurain told El Mundo Deportivo he believed that factors ranging from young riders’ greater access to information and technology, through to looking after themselves differently to previous generations, “have all helped them hit the heights sooner. But that’s happening in all sports. They’re all getting younger.

“I don’t think cycling has changed too much though. There’s more technology like in all sports, more information about how to handle efforts, and sure there are new climbs, but they haven’t got rid of the classic ones so, that hasn’t changed so much.

“So bikes and the limits on performance change, but in a race either you pedal [hard] or there’s no way forward.”

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.