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Tadej Pogacar: I feel confident and prepared for Tour de France

Team UAE Emirates Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia C attends the teams presentation two days ahead of the first stage of the 108th edition of the Tour de France cycling race near Brest on June 24 2021 Photo by Philippe LOPEZ AFP Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZAFP via Getty Images
Tadej Pogacar wtih UAE Team Emirates at the Tour de France team presentation (Image credit: Getty Images)

Tadej Pogačar returns to the Tour de France with a new perspective as the defending champion. The 22-year-old was the second-youngest winner of the Tour when it was held last year in the unusual autumn time slot.

He’s still young and winning races, including the recent Tour of Slovenia, but doesn’t see himself as a true leader of his UAE Team Emirates squad, at least from the perspective of age and mileage.

“I don’t consider myself a leader that commands my teammates because I don’t have the most experience in the team. OK, so I am the leader for the GC, but the road captain for sure is better suited for Rafal [Majka] or Vegard [Stake Laengen] or Rui [Costa],” Pogačar told Velon in an interview on Thursday in advance of the Grand Depárt in Brest.

He’ll have those veterans surrounding him for the opening stages in Brittany, as well as Brandon McNulty, Marc Hirschi, Davide Formolo, Mikkel Bjerg to complete the eight-rider squad for UAE Team Emirates.

“The first week it will be more nervous than last year, but it’s going to be fun I think. The first two stages I think the finishes are hard. We have no idea who will win, so it will be really exciting,” he said. 

“The mountain stages, I saw almost all in recons. For now I don’t think much about the last week right now. Every day has some tricks and obstacles. You can gain time, but it doesn’t matter because it’s not going to be a big difference. I mean, every second counts in the end, but it’s more important not to lose time.”

He had solid success this spring leading up to June, winning the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and he also finished second behind fellow countryman and Tour rival Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) at Itzulia Basque Country.

“After Liège, I had a small break of one week, just easy riding and time at home. Then I did some media obligations, some sponsorship stuff, and then quite soon headed for the recons, and then Tour of Slovenia. After Slovenia, I went to altitude, and with combination of national championships it was quite busy preparation,” he said.

Pogačar's performances at the Slovenia National Road Championships last weekend were not what he expected, coming away with only a bronze in the time trial and a fifth place in the road race.

“I made a lot of mistakes. When I look at the big picture, it was good preparation. I was of course disappointed I didn’t win,” Pogačar told Velon. “I think I have really good form coming into the first week, so I’m not worried about my performance. It can be nervous and dangerous for sure.

“After the Slovenia Nationals and Tour of Slovenia, I feel good, prepared, and confident.”

Just nine months removed from his Tour de France title, he’s ready to roll again.

“It’s a lot different, more media attention, and this stuff, but for me it doesn’t matter. I stay the same. Good preparations, I come here calm and ready. Physically, after the Tour, I got good legs and now at the beginning of the season, I had really good numbers. We will see here at the Tour if it is the same like in the spring, or if it’s even better.”

Jackie Tyson

Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling for people of all abilities and ages. Tyson has been recognized for communications excellence with 10 Phoenix Awards, presented by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp - and was recognized by a national media outlet as the first female depicted in a pro baseball card set (Ft. Myers Royals). She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times. Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in  Provence (France). Her favorite mountain bike rides are in Park City, Utah (USA).