SPEND­ING TWO DAYS IN THE GIRO PINK JERSEY WAS THE HIGH­LIGHT OF MY YEAR

I’m look­ing for­ward to recharg­ing my bat­ter­ies back in the UAE and meet­ing all the pas­sion­ate fans

The National - News - - SPORT - JAN POLANC

There’s more to rid­ing a bike than just rid­ing a bike and there’s more to lead­er­ship than just lead­ing.

In our sport, an in­di­vid­ual, who is also a mem­ber of a team, wins the race. This is un­like most other team sports, so we have to be very tac­ti­cal and sup­port who­ever has the best chance to lead the race.

Ev­ery great cy­clist needs a great team to win, and ev­ery great team needs a great in­di­vid­ual cy­clist to win. I am lucky enough to have had a great team be­hind me this year.

When I look back at my sea­son my per­sonal high­light was the two days I spent wear­ing the cov­eted Pink Jersey whilst lead­ing the Giro d’Italia.

If you ask any cy­clist what springs to mind when they think of Italy, and the an­swer is unan­i­mous, La Maglia Rosa (the Pink Jersey).

This is worn by the leader of the gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion on the Giro d’Italia and is steeped in history.

The Tour of Italy is con­sid­ered by many to be ‘the world’s tough­est race, in the world’s most beau­ti­ful place’ so I was im­mensely proud to be in pink for two days.

It was also spe­cial to re­ceive the Jersey from the back of my team­mate, Va­le­rio Conti, which meant that UAE Team Emi­rates led the race for a week.

Af­ter this achieve­ment lots of Italian cycling fans wanted a selfie with me and ev­ery­one on the roads knew my name – it was so ex­cit­ing.

The 2019 sea­son was also a spe­cial one for my coun­try, Slove­nia. With only two mil­lion peo­ple, we are not a big coun­try but just like the UAE, the pas­sion for cycling is grow­ing at an ex­tra­or­di­nary rate.

We had a very suc­cess­ful sea­son, which I am happy to have con­trib­uted to. For the first time, a Slove­nian cy­clist won a Grand Tour af­ter Pri­moz Roglic sealed vic­tory at the Vuelta a Es­pana.

The Vuelta was also spe­cial for my very good friend, com­pa­triot and team­mate Tadej Po­gacar who fin­ished on the podium.

We have a deep bond of friend­ship and spend a lot of time to­gether train­ing and hang­ing out away from the bikes.

My last race of the 2019 sea­son was Il Lom­bar­dia and one that I al­ways en­joy rid­ing in. Af­ter my fifth time com­pet­ing last week, the beau­ti­ful scenery and iconic climbs are al­ways some­thing I look for­ward to.

I won the Pic­colo Giro di Lom­bar­dia in 2012 which is a ver­sion of the race for un­der 23’s; the name means ‘Lit­tle Tour of Lom­bar­dia’.

The route was part of the course we raced on last Satur­day so I’m pretty fa­mil­iar with the par­cours. Even though I was ac­cus­tomed to the course, the Tour was very de­mand­ing as it seemed like the climbs were never-end­ing! Even the names of each climb are sug­ges­tive of the dif­fi­culty.

The Muro di Sor­mano has an as­cent of 27 per cent and ‘Muro’ aptly means ‘wall’ in Italian which is what it feels like you’re climb­ing. ‘Battaglia’ in The San Fermo della Battaglia means ‘bat­tle’ in Italian which is also aptly named be­cause, af­ter rid­ing for 235km, you have a real bat­tle against your legs which are just not will­ing to pedal any­more!

Un­for­tu­nately, I didn’t get the chance to race in the UAE this year, so I am re­ally look­ing for­ward to com­ing back next week to recharge the bat­ter­ies and gain fo­cus on next sea­son.

Ev­ery time I come to the UAE, I see that cycling is be­com­ing more and more pop­u­lar. It’s great to see peo­ple of all ages and back­grounds shar­ing a pas­sion for a sport that I love so much.

For me, trips like this are very im­por­tant. Meet­ing the fans, spon­sors and know­ing we have got a strong fan­base in the UAE is bril­liant and a huge mo­ti­va­tion for us all to do well.

You can see the project we are build­ing and how much it means to peo­ple, I can speak for the team when I say this; we will do all we can to make UAE Team Emi­rates go right to the top.

Fans wanted a selfie with me and ev­ery­one on the roads knew my name – it was so ex­cit­ing

Bet­tiniPhoto

Wear­ing the pink jersey for two days at this year’s Giro d’Italia were proud mo­ments for the Slove­nian Jan Polanc, who will be head­ing to the UAE dur­ing the off-sea­son

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