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Tadej Pogacar not focused on making history alongside Coppi and Merckx

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) winner of the 2021 Il Lombardia celebrates on the podium
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) winner of the 2021 Il Lombardia celebrates on the podium (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) seems to win the biggest races in cycling with ease, racing on instinct, simply for the thrill of it all.

An Il Lombardia victory completed the 23-year-old Slovenian's exceptional 2021 season, giving him a place in history alongside Fausto Coppi and Eddy Merckx for winning two Monuments and the Tour de France in the same season. Yet he insisted that he is not that interested in making history.

"I just like riding my bike, going to races and giving my all. If I make history or not, I just enjoy it. I don't think about what's going to be. I just enjoy the moment," he explained after his win in Bergamo.

"I just like racing. I like one-week races, Grand Tours and I also love one-day races because they're different, they're more thrilling and interesting. I really like that kind of racing.

"It's been a really crazy season, from the start to the finish," he explained.

"I can't be more happy. There have been great moments with the team and with the national team. It's an amazing year."

Pogacar hopes for more of the same in 2022, despite the expectation and attention that such dominance creates.

"My dream is to enjoy my cycling as much as possible. When I stop enjoying it then I'll search for new goals," he said.

"My programmes for the next season are more or less the same: to do the big races and to try my best every year."

Pogacar is making history in the modern era of the sport and not just in the record books. He can win the hardest one-day Classics, early-season weeklong stage races like the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico and then the Tour de France.

He is convinced his Classic-winning skills give him an edge in Grand Tours and vice-versa.

"In this cycling, to be competitive in Grand Tours, you need to be good in all kinds of races: you need to be good on the bike, in sprints, in time trials and one-day races. Everything happens in Grand Tours and you can use that experience and it helps everywhere," he suggested.

"That's how racing is becoming now. There are a lot of riders who are good in different kinds of races. I think it's a great time in cycling."

Grand Tour racing is perhaps more calculated but his attack at Il Lombardia was based on pure instinct, sensing the moment was right, seizing the initiative and then having the physical ability to win.

"Davide Formolo and Rafa Majka kept asking me what to do but I had no idea before the final climb. I simply said to try our best and see how we feel," Pogacar revealed in the post-race press conference.

"There were some attacks left and then right but nobody wanted to take control, so I decided to go ... I guess it was a good move. It was more on instinct than planned."

Pogacar had endured some bad days in recent weeks but was on a good day on the Passo di Ganda as his rivals struggled to match his pace, then he was unperturbed by Fausto Masnada came across on the descent and sat on his wheel, dispatching him with a perfect late sprint surge in the streets of lower Bergamo.

"When I came to the Italian classics, I still had good and bad days but I kept believing that if I got some race pace in (my legs), then I'd be good in Lombardia," he explained.

"Maybe the bad days helped me. I didn't go over my limits, then Tre Valli Varesine and Milano-Torino gave me good legs. In the finale, I drove all I could on the Ganda, then did my best to stay with Fausto on the last climb. I knew I had a solid sprint and so I knew what I had to do."

Pogacar's final words in the press conference were for directeur sportif Allan Peiper, who was fundamental in his first Tour de France victory in 2020 and has been an important mentor for the Slovenian.

The 61-year-old Australia has been fighting cancer for several years and has revealed he has less energy due to his ongoing treatment. He retired after Paris-Roubaix.

"I'm really sad that he's retiring but also happy for him. He deserves it," Pogacar said with emotion in his voice.

"He's been a great mentor to me. We met for the first time at the Cadel Evans road race (in 2019), that was our first race together and then a year and a half later we won the Tour together and we really bonded.

"He gave me a lot in cycling and even more out of cycling. I have to thank him. I hope he enjoys his retirement."