Tour of Slovenia: Majka and Pogacar dominate Velika Planina summit finish

UAE Team Emirates continued their domination of the Tour of Slovenia as Rafal Majka and Tadej Pogačar placed first and second on stage 4 after forging clear together 5km from the summit finish at Velika Planina.

Majka and Pogačar’s superiority was such that they could ease up in the final kilometre and even jokingly mime a game of 'rock, paper, scissors' as they decided how to divide the spoils. In truth, from the moment they forged ahead, it seemed likely that Pogačar would cede stage honours to his domestique Majka while he consolidated his overall lead, and so it proved.

Majka and Pogačar came home 22 seconds clear of Fernando Barcelo (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Alex Tolio (Bardiani-CSF-Faizané) and Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa).

In the overall standings, Pogačar carries a lead of three seconds over Majka into Sunday’s final stage, while Domen Novak (Bahrain Victorious) now trails by 1:56 in third place overall.

The most demanding stage of the Tour of Slovenia passed through Pogačar’s hometown of Komenda, and another exhibition from the local favourite seemed inevitable here after his victory the previous afternoon.

A group of nine riders – Lionel Taminiaux (Alpecin-Fenix), Samuele Zoccarato (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Xabier Mikel Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Umberto Marengo (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), Iván Cobo (Equipo Kern Pharma), David Per (Adria Mobil), Viktor Potocki (Ljubljana Gusto Santic) and Francesco Carollo (Mg.K Vis-Color for Peace-VPM) – forged away in the opening kilometres, building a maximum lead of four minutes as UAE Team Emirates set the tempo behind.

After the climb of Črnivec, that gap was down to three minutes and Bahrain Victorious had taken up the reins of pursuit. Shortly afterwards, however, Bahrain decided to send Jan Tratnik on the offensive rather than simply provide Pogačar with a lead-out to the final ascent.

UAE Team Emirates found an ally of circumstance in Eolo-Kometa, who perhaps wanted to tee up Lorenzo Fortunato for an assault on the summit Velika Planina, and their combined efforts stitched the race back together before the climb.

After UAE had set the tempo on the lower slopes of Velika Planina, Caja Rural-Seguros RGA briefly took over, with Joel Nicolau pressing ahead with 6km to go. That only served to spark Majka and Pogačar into action, however, as they soon took up the reins in the dwindling leading group.

Majka and Pogačar accelerated clear of the rest with 5km remaining, quickly stretching their advantage out to 45 seconds. Pogačar, as if to test himself one last time before his Tour de France defence, took over from Majka with a searing turn with 2.5km remaining. Then, satisfied with his condition and convinced that those behind had now been irretrievably distanced, Pogačar rode side by side with Majka towards the finish. Their work was done.

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