Watch out world. The Pyrenees are still two days away in the Tour de France but race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) is already warning that he won’t turn down a chance to go on the attack again.
Partly thanks to his attack on the road to Le Grand-Bornand, Pogačar already has a considerable advantage of over five minutes on second-placed Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-Nippo). Usually when a race leader has such a big gap, they opt to play a conservative game. But not Pogačar, it seems.
Asked on Thursday if he would try to make a move in the Pyrenees given he’s such an aggressive rider, Pogačar admitted keeping the maillot jaune was his main priority. That was straight before adding that he would not make riding conservatively his default position.
“My first goal, of course, is to defend the jersey because you never know what could happen. But for sure if I feel good, like I always say I’ll race my best and I never give up. So if I see an opportunity, I’ll grab it,” he resolutely told reporters.
Pogačar’s gung-ho attitude seems a little unusual given his most recent experience in the mountains, when he struggled slightly on the summit of the Mont Ventoux.
But on Thursday, the Tour de France leader was adamant that he was feeling back to his usual self when racing and that his difficult stage on Wednesday is a thing of the past.
“I must say I felt much better. Maybe it was because it wasn’t so hot, but I felt kind of good on the bike today. My legs were turning great,” he recounted.
Pogačar indirectly backed up this claim when he said that despite the fraught first half hour of the stage, where the bunch split briefly in three in strong crosswinds, he had been so well-placed he didn’t even know it it had happened.
“My team were there supporting me and I felt great,” he said. “I was feeling good, comfortable and I stayed close to the front. I got through those first few kilometres pretty well. Then we spent some energy to control the bunch. But it went fine.”
In the yellow jersey for over a week now, and asked to make an analysis of how and he his team are handling the new situation of having to control the Tour, Pogačar said he was more than satisfied with his, and their, performance. “So far everything has been super good,” he enthused.
If things are going well on the ground, Pogačar was dismissive of the idea that back in Slovenia, most local fans had been rooting for Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) rather than him.
“I don’t know what’s going on there, I don’t read much on social media,” Pogačar said. “And I don’t spend much time in Slovenia either.
“But when I raced the Tour of Slovenia [which he won], everyone was cheering for everyone. And here in the Tour, where there are lots of Slovenian fans, they shout out my name. That’s great."
Pogačar faces another long day in the saddle on Thursday, with a 219-kilometre slog across southern France, prior to heading back into the mountains. There’s no knowing if he will put on as impressive a display of climbing strength in the Pyrenees as he did in the Alps. But on current evidence, it can’t be ruled out.
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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.
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