Tadej Pogačar is one of the biggest up-and-coming talents in pro cycling, and upper management at UAE Team Emirates want to keep him within their grasp. He's currently competing for the title at the Tour of California, and although some would like to see what he could do at a Grand Tour, the team's director, Neil Stephens, told Cyclingnews that won't be happening for another two years.
"We've got a great medical and training staff, and, together with the directors, we've created a good calendar for him," Stephens told Cyclingnews at the finish of stage 3 in Morgan Hill, California.
"He's not doing too many races. We decided to race him less, even though he might be able to do more. The few races that he does do, he'll race hard, and he's doing well, and that's probably the best way for him. We're already starting to think about what he can do next year, but the major tours are a couple of years off yet."
Pogačar spent the last two seasons riding for Slovenian Continental teams, but joined UAE Team Emirates for his first season on the WorldTour in 2019. The Slovenian started his season with 13th overall at the Tour Down Under in January before winning a stage and the overall at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal. He was second on the Arrigorriaga stage at Pais Vasco and finished fourth overall at the Spanish WorldTour race.
"We knew he could do the performances that he's accomplished," Stephens continued. "It has surprised us, though, that he's accomplishing so much, so soon. We always knew he could, but maybe in a year or two. He doesn't race that much, but when he does, it's really intense. He's had a combination of hard racing and then good training – hard racing, good training.
"At the Tour Down Under he was 13th, but he was helping a teammate. At the Tour of the Basque Country he was fifth, but again, he was helping a teammate. For his age, being only 20, he's done some great rides. What we have to do is keep his feet on the ground and take things one step at a time, and he's going to be good."
At the Tour of California, Pogačar finished fourth on stage 2's climb to South Lake Tahoe and then 10th on stage 3 to Morgan Hill. He's currently fourth overall, and Stephens said he aims to win the overall title.
"He's trying to win the whole Tour of California. He's leading the young rider classification, which is by chance, because he's running fourth in the general classification, and we need to improve on that in the next couple of days."
There are some 3,000m of climbing on every stage at the Tour of California, with the next decisive opportunity set to take place on stage 6 to the summit of Mt. Baldy.
"He hasn't seen Mt. Baldy, but I have, and we'll need to go over it in more detail to see what we can do on that climb," Stephens said. "It's definitely the most decisive climb. There are better riders in the bunch than Pogačar, such as Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Higuita from EF, who are both very good on those sorts of climbs, so Pogačar is maybe not the best, but he's all right."
After the Tour of California, Pogačar will turn his attention to the Tour of Slovenia, where he was fourth last year and fifth in 2017.
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