Tadej Pogačar 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 on Thursday morning, 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 matter of days ago – the 17th victory of his two-year pro career – Pogačar 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.”
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Pogačar will line up at the UCI Road 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, Pogačar admits that his Tour win has yet to seem real.
“This hasn’t sunk in yet really,” he said. “I think it will be a long time until I realise 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.
“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 realise what happened.”
He said that the original plan was to target a top five 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 five. That was the first main goal.
“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 Pogačar 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 two 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 Pogačar 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.”