Tadej Pogačar prioritises Tour de France and subsequent World Championships over Grand Tour treble

Since turning professional in 2019, Tadej Pogačar has secured victories at an impressive rate, winning one in every four race days. Pogačar could be forgiven for thinking bike races typically end with a bouquet of flowers and a podium appearance.

On stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia, during the climb up Passo del Brocon, Pogačar had to settle for second place behind escapee Georg Steinhauser (EF Education-EasyPost). However, he still managed to cement his dominance by gaining another twenty seconds on his competitors with a late surge. The day concluded with a fresh maglia rosa atop the podium.

Dominance in this year’s Giro d’Italia

In a press conference, Pogačar was asked whether he would find cycling as appealing if he didn’t win so frequently. “Yesterday I was tired and I was thinking about retirement, I would be happy with the last victory,” Pogačar joked, before adding, “I love riding my bike. But I know for sure that if my level was not like it is now, or if I could not hold on in the gruppetto, then I would probably find something that I could be good at again. But let’s hope I have good legs for a few more years…”

Pogačar’s command over the Giro d’Italia remains unchallenged. On Wednesday, everything seemed to come effortlessly for the 25-year-old and his UAE Team Emirates squad. They had aimed to allow the day’s early break to go the distance, only for DSM-Firmenich-PostNL to reel them back. Nevertheless, it made little difference. The maglia rosa tracked an acceleration from Romain Bardet on the Passo Gobbera more out of boredom than caution. Later, after Ineos set a steady pace for much of the final climb, Pogačar attacked with 2km to go, extending his overall lead to 7:42 over Daniel Martínez (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Reflecting on the race, Pogačar said, “The original break was super strong, so we were happy with that. We just wanted to do a good pace on the climbs and take no risks on the downhill, but DSM came and did a crazy downhill. On every uphill, people were looking around, and then every downhill was super fast. It was a really strange day.” Yet, this may just be a result of Pogačar’s dominance altering his view of what constitutes a ‘normal’ race. His ‘slow’ pace on climbs is near the limit for others like Martínez and Geraint Thomas.

How many will Pogačar win?

One of the few remaining questions is how many more stages Pogačar will win before arriving in Rome. He already has five stage wins, four of which were in the maglia rosa. If he so chooses, he can match Eddy Merckx and Learco Guerra by winning a fifth stage as the race leader. He hinted at targeting the penultimate stage over Monte Grappa, saying, “Tomorrow is a flat stage, so let’s hope [Juan Sebastian] Molano can find some luck in the sprint, then there is a more medium stage, which could be one for a breakaway. Monte Grappa can be an iconic stage, and there should also be a lot of Slovenian flags flying on the climb because it’s not too far. Let’s see.”

Looking ahead, Pogačar dismissed the idea of riding the Vuelta a España if he achieves the Giro-Tour double. Instead, he aims for another piece of history by possibly winning the Giro, Tour, and World Championships in the same season. “I think the Vuelta for sure not. I have other plans after the Tour,” said Pogačar. “We’ll go day by day here, and then the big goal for sure is the Tour and the World Championships.”

Main photo credit: LaPresse