Tadej Pogacar’s remarkable progress in his first WorldTour season, and at just 20 years old, has continued apace at the Vuelta a España, with the UAE Team Emirates rider taking a solo Pyrenean stage win in atrocious weather conditions.
Rather than being put off by the massive hail and rain storm that blasted the Vuelta in the final hour of stage 9, the young Slovenian thrived in the tough weather conditions.
“I was really pleased when I saw the weather forecast last night,” Pogacar said after the summit finish at Cortals d’Encamp. “It was perfect for me, and on the gravel section just before the climb I went for it, full gas. I felt good in all that rain, even if it was difficult.
“I was following [Nairo] Quintana, and I attacked him with three kilometres to go," he said. “With about 1.5 kilometres to go, I knew I had 20 seconds advantage on Quintana and that that was enough for the stage win. So from then on, I was just enjoying it. It was an incredible feeling.”
Thanks to his show of climbing strength, Pogacar has moved up to fifth overall, 1:42 back, and although it seems unlikely he will move ahead of the top four on GC – all tied within 20 seconds – on Tuesday he could at least close the gap.
The Slovenian is his country’s current time trial champion, but that is only one of his top results over the past two years. A winner of the Tour de L’Avenir in 2018, this year Pogacar has already won the Tour of the Algarve and the Tour of California. All this, at 20.
Pogacar says that he is unsure what his chances are in the GC battle, but he will do “everything possible” to finish in the top five or top 10 in Madrid
As for Tuesday’s race against the clock in Pau following Monday's rest day, Pogacar said he will "go for it – full gas."
And after Sunday’s impressive triumph, right now it would seem like there are few limits to what Pogacar is capable of achieving.
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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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