PO­GACAR SETS GOALS HIGHER

BusinessMirror - - Sports -

TADEJ PO­GACAR may have sealed Tour de France vic­tory four days ago, but the UAE Team Emi­rates young­ster still can’t be­lieve what he achieved on his de­but at the race. Speak­ing in a vir­tual press con­fer­ence, the 22-year- old said that his post-race cel­e­bra­tions have been low-key. Covid-19 re­stric­tions and a fo­cus on up­com­ing races in this con­densed cal­en­dar both mean he’s stayed in his Monaco flat rather than go­ing out to cel­e­brate be­com­ing the youngest Tour win­ner since Henri Cor­net in 1904.

And de­spite win­ning the Tour a few days ago—the 17th vic­tory of his two-year pro ca­reer—po­gacar is al­ready think­ing ahead to new goals.

“For sure I will try to de­fend the Tour de France ti­tle but there’s also the World Cham­pi­onships this week,” he said. “For the fu­ture, to be at my best to try to win again, to win some Mon­u­ments or the Giro and Vuelta.”

Po­gacar will vie in the In­ter­na­tional Cy­cling Union World Cham­pi­onships road race in Imola on Sun­day, one of eight rid­ers rep­re­sent­ing Slove­nia. Af­ter that—in Oc­to­ber—he’ll take on two Mon­u­ments, in­clud­ing a Tour of Flan­ders de­but af­ter Liège-bas­togne-liège. But even when he’s plan­ning for those races, Po­gacar ad­mits that his Tour win has yet to seem real.

“This hasn’t sunk in yet re­ally. I think it will be a long time un­til I re­al­ize that I won the big­gest race in the world be­cause it’s some­thing I’ve been dream­ing about since I was a kid, even to be on the start list of the Tour de France,” he said.

“Now in my first year, I al­ready had the op­por­tu­nity to race with the best, and then to win it’s un­be­liev­able for me. I think I will need some time to re­al­ize what hap­pened,” he added.

Po­gacar said that the orig­i­nal plan was to tar­get a top 5 fin­ish, mak­ing his fi­nal re­sult some­thing of a sur­prise even to him and his team—and an even big­ger sur­prise for any­one who be­lieved UAE’S spin that the more ex­pe­ri­enced Fabio Aru would take on the man­tle of team lead­er­ship in France.

“The team be­lieved but for sure it was a bit of a sur­prise to ar­rive in yel­low in Paris. We started with the mind­set to go for the top 5,” Po­gacar said. “That was the first main goal.”

Po­gacar added: “Then, when I was in sec­ond, we tried to de­fend it and get some time back from Pri­mož [Roglič], but we saw that it was quite im­pos­si­ble with his strong team. Then in the time trial it was a lit­tle bit we were all sur­prised by what I did.”

That fi­nal Tour podium, a one- two for Slove­nia with Po­gacar beat­ing Roglič in the end by 59 sec­onds, is a re­sult nearly un­prece­dented in mod­ern Tour his­tory. The last time two rid­ers from the same coun­try oc­cu­pied the top 2 spots in Paris was back in 2012 when Bradley Wig­gins and Chris Froome dom­i­nated the race.

Look­ing back over the last half- cen­tury it’s only hap­pened on three more oc­ca­sions— with Lau­rent Fignon and Bernard Hin­ault in 1984, Joop Zoetemelk and Hen­nie Kuiper in 1980, and Jac­ques An­quetil and Ray­mond Pouli­dor in 1964. Need­less to say, there has been much cause for cel­e­bra­tion in Slove­nia—a coun­try with just nine World­tour rid­ers, even if Po­gacar wasn’t able to party af­ter his win.

“For Slove­nia, it’s our first Tour de France vic­tory and I must say that with first and sec­ond on the podium, Slove­nia is go­ing crazy right now,” he said.

“Ev­ery­one is so happy and cel­e­brat­ing, but for me now I’ve stayed in my apart­ment in Monaco where ev­ery­thing is more re­laxed be­cause of the Covid-19 re­stric­tions, so it’s a bit hard to go and cel­e­brate with peo­ple.”

AP

TADEJ has no time for cel­e­bra­tions with world cham­pi­onships and the clas­sics in his sights.

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