After a stunning Grand Tour debut in the Vuelta a España last year, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) showed no sign of losing his nerve or his top condition on the far bigger stage of the Tour de France this Tuesday, when he snatched second place behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) at the race’s first major summit finish.
In Spain last September, Pogačar claimed no fewer than three mountain victories - in Andorra, Cantabria and west of Madrid - while compatriot Roglič focussed on crushing his rivals overall and conserving his gains from the main time trial at Pau.
But finishing so close to Roglič in the Tour’s first stage this Tuesday while strengthening his hold on fourth overall was a result many of his more experienced rivals would surely have signed for without a a moment’s thought at Orcières-Merlette.
In the process, the young Slovenian has moved into the top spot of the Tour's Best Young Rider’s classification, which he won outright last year in the Vuelta, as well as taking third place overall. Now, almost exactly 12 months further on, Pogačar is once again in an impressively high position in a Grand Tour.
"To wear the white jersey in the Tour is a really nice moment for me. I wasn't sure after I crossed the line if I had taken it or not,” Pogačar said afterwards. “Wearing the white in the Vuelta was special but this is even more so.
"Today's stage was not so hard but the final part was full gas," he pointed out. "Primož was a bit faster than me in the final but I'm happy with my result."
With UAE Team Emirates are already on a high after winning the Tour’s opening stage with Alexander Kristoff, on top of his own success, after stage 4 Pogačar also had positive news to report concerning an injured teammate.
"The team is good - [David] De La Cruz is still recovering from his crash but he's getting better. Everybody’s motivation is really high,” Pogačar pointed out.
And regardless of what Pogačar achieves in the days and weeks to come this autumn, the team know that both he and they have time on their side. After all, he’s still only 21, and turning 22 the day after the Tour finishes in Paris on September 20th.
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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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