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Tour de France: Pogacar to be supported by Majka, McNulty and Hirschi

Liege - Bastogne - Liege 2021 - 107th Edition - Liege - Liege 259,1 km - 25/04/2021 - Tadej Pogacar (SLO - UAE Team Emirates) - photo Vincent Kalut/PN/BettiniPhoto©2021
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Tadej Pogačar will be flanked by a reinforced UAE Team Emirates squad at the Tour de France, with debutant Brandon McNulty and new signings Rafal Majka and Marc Hirschi forming part of the defending champion’s supporting cast.

Davide Formolo, Rui Costa, Mikkel Bjerg and Vegard Stake Laengen also feature in the eight-man squad, which was announced on Tuesday morning.

Last September, Pogačar claimed overall victory despite being often isolated in the high mountains after losing Formolo and Fabio Aru early in the race. While Ineos and Jumbo-Visma appear to have the strongest teams at the Tour, the Slovenian should be able to rely on more consistent support in the mountains this time out.

“It’s a privilege to be back to the Tour as the defending champion. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people and we hope we can give everyone three weeks of exciting racing,” Pogačar said.

Pogačar warmed up for the Tour by winning the Tour of Slovenia, though he had to settle for bronze in the time trial at the national championships last weekend. Earlier in the year, he won the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and he also finished second behind fellow countryman and Tour rival Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) at Itzulia Basque Country.

“My year so far has gone really well and I’m really looking forward to starting this Tour with good preparation and good condition,” Pogačar said. “I am confident in myself and my team, we can’t wait for the challenge.”

UAE Team Emirates signed Majka from Bora-Hansgrohe last winter and they also picked up Hirschi when DSM terminated his contract at the start of the year, and both new signings have been selected alongside Pogačar. McNulty was originally set to ride the Giro d’Italia but the American was held back to ride in support of Pogacar in France.

Unlike last September, when Alexander Kristoff picked up victory on the opening day in Nice, UAE Team Emirates have not brought a sprinter to the race, and the team is devoted entirely to Pogačar.

“Our aim for this year is clear: we are going to try and defend the title which Tadej claimed last year, so we have built a team around him. We have a good mix of youth and experience to support Tadej with a strong block of climbers and also solid riders for the flat roads,” said team manager Joxean Matxin Fernandez.

“Obviously we’ll be heavily marked by the other teams and it’s not going to be an easy task, but we are confident and know that a big result is well within the capabilities of Tadej and the team.”