News | Team June 26, 2024

Tadej Pogačar: Chasing History at the Tour de France

Tadej – it has now been a few weeks since your incredible win at the Giro d’Italia. Now that the dust has settled, how do you reflect on your amazing win?


“Winning the Giro d’Italia was an incredible experience, one that I will always cherish. It meant a lot to me as it was my first time at the Giro. To win in the way we did, it was one of my biggest wins so far. I was happy I got to celebrate with the team, they were with me for the three weeks and the training camps before. They mean a lot to me, we’re like a family and it was a special moment with them. I really enjoyed it, it was incredible!”


The Giro was a hard-fought three weeks of racing. With just a few weeks between the finish of the Giro and the start of the Tour de France, how have you managed your recovery?


“After the Giro I relaxed a little bit and ate some good food, but I had some stuff to do around home, so I was back in Monaco quite soon after the Giro ready to slowly get ready for the Tour.  I was actually quite eager to get back on the bike when I got home. The first week I did a few days of easy riding to the coffee shop and back to home. It was nice. I then started to feel good quite quickly and did some good training soon after the Giro.”


How important is it to you after a Grand Tour to step away from the bike, even if it is just for a couple of days to reset both mentally and physically?


“It’s really important to switch off from time to time. The mental recovery is really important as is the physical recovery. You need to find the balance, and sometimes you just need to be off the bike. I like to switch off by hanging out at home with friends and I also like to go for ice cream or a nice dinner. After the Giro I watched a lot of good series, the time was passing quickly, and I was then refreshed and ready to prepare for the Tour.”


The Tour de France starts on Saturday, with cycling fans all around the world ready to watch the best of the best race over three weeks. How is your shape coming into the Tour?


“I’m really looking forward to the start of the Tour, I think it’s going to be a special start for me because I won the Giro, and the Tour starts in Italy, so I think it’s going to be amazing! It’s looked like I’ve made a step forward since the Giro, and my shape is even better than what I expected. I’ve done some good training, and I’ve tested my legs a little bit and to be honest, I have never felt so good on the bike. I’m really looking forward to seeing if I have improved in the race situations from the Giro, but I feel good so I cannot complain!”


Last year your preparations for the Tour de France were interrupted after your crash at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. How much did that injury impact you, both physically and mentally at last year’s race?


“Last year was totally different because of the injury. No one prepares like that for the Tour if they’re not injured and so many things around me didn’t go well after the crash in Liege. I saw who was there to help me and who wasn’t. There was some disappointment and negative energy around, and it all built up to the Tour de France – I wasn’t 100% confident. There was going to be a moment where it all built up and I was going to crack and it was probably the ITT at Combloux, after that time trial I completely shut down, there was no coming back. Also, after the Tour I had the world championships, nothing went right for me, and I had a tough moment. Luckily, I could recover and finish the season well. This year I also did the Giro, so it is again a different preparation from previous Tour de France races – more or less you need to train and recover, push on the big training days and recover on the easy days.”


We saw that you wasted no time at the Giro in attacking the race. Is the plan the same for the Tour?


“I mean, at the Giro it worked well, so we can see. I cannot speak too much about it. The first two days are quite hard, especially with the second day with the San Luca climb. I think there’s going to be some indicator of who is where and then we can decide after these two stages how to approach the next days”


With notable opponents like Remco Evenpoel, Jonas Vingegaard, and Primoz Roglic recovering from injuries, how do you expect their form to be for the upcoming Tour de France? Given the strength of the competition, do you believe this could be the most competitive Tour de France of all time?


“Jonas was really injured, really hard, but I think he’s going to be fine. I think Jonas will be prepared and if he’s strong mentally and has recovered well then of course, I think we should be ready to see him at his best. We saw with Remco and Primoz that they were in really good shape at the Dauphine, maybe with Remco it was a little too soon to be flying 100% but Primoz was in really good form. I think they are all going to be at a top level at the Tour. I do think it will be a really competitive Tour, but you never know how your opponents are. Our bodies are unpredictable, last year I thought I was 100% but one day I was super good, and one day I was not ready.”


Grand Tour racing is three weeks of ups and down where timing is so important. Given your own experience with how hard it is to win, are there any stages you think will be crucial this year?


“It’s hurtful for someone like me when I lose the Tour de France, it gives me more motivation and hunger to win it again. For sure, the two second places give me more wood to put on the fire. You need to be ready on every stage during the Tour, you never know when your opponents will feel strongest – it could be week one, week two or the last week. I think every stage will be crucial this year – the whole team will be fighting for the same goal, fighting for the win.”


This year will see the Tour de France not finish in Paris for the first time in more than a century. How do you think that will change the race?


“I think the difference will be the last three days, they are really, really hard. I think we could also maybe see some sprinters go home before Nice. Obviously, it’s going to be a lot of calculation for the last three days within the balance of the GC contenders, somebody might think to save the legs for the last day because they really have prepared a brutal time trial for us on the final stage which I think has changed the overall race a little bit.”


Stage 21 will see a really tough Individual Time Trial ending in Nice. How excited are you to finish so close to home and have you put an extra focus on Time Trialling as a result of the final stage?


“It’s special. This year I would sometimes go for an easy ride to Nice and back and you could see already they had a Tour atmosphere, even 5 months ago! You feel lucky to be there, and to finish there it’s going to be amazing. I think it’s going to be super-hot and humid; I know the conditions of July and August well and I think they’re terrible. There will be a lot of fatigue coming into play and with two climbs in the time trial, it’s going to be super tough, but afterwards I can just get on my bike, ride home and go to sleep!  I’ve worked a lot of hours outside of the bike and have also focused on the Time Trial bike a bit more as well, but I haven’t made any extreme changes – I am just a little more organized and structured in my training for the time trial, I got a lot of confidence back from the Giro after the disastrous world championships last year.”


It is widely reported that you are the favourite to win this year’s Tour de France. Does that put more pressure on you?


“Everybody thinks I will win the Tour every year and I haven’t won the last two, there is obviously a pressure for the Tour always, it’s the biggest race in the world. Every year I am more mature and I’m learning from experiences and mistakes. You never stop improving mentally and physically and I believe that I’m in a good place. Of course, I want to have fun too, when I don’t have fun on the bike anymore then maybe I’ll retire so I want to have fun for as long as possible. I feel good but let’s see, diamonds are made under pressure.”


If you win the Tour de France, fans would love to see you compete in the Vuelta a Espana. Is that something you would consider with this year also featuring the Olympics as well as the World Championships?


“I don’t think so, no. One day I would love to wear the red jersey, but I can assure you that the Giro-Tour-Vuelta triple is not on the program this year. Winning every Grand Tour is a major goal for me, but to do it in the same year is perhaps a little too crazy. As you said it is also an Olympic year and there is the World Championships too. I think after the Tour we will see but the main goal will be the World Championships.”


Having achieved third place last year, how motivated are you to win the World Championships this year? What are your thoughts on the course for this year’s race?


“Last year I was 3rd in the World Championships, and I would like to give it a go again. I really like the course this year, Switzerland is a nice country, and it should be good roads and nice small climbs, it’ll be a tough race. To have the rainbow jersey would be a dream.”


Finally, how excited are you to see the fans of UAE Team Emirates out in numbers across all 21 stages of the Tour de France?


“I can’t wait to see our fans again! The support they show to us every race is amazing and I can honestly say that we feel it at these big races, and it really does help us. I hope we can make you all proud. I’m excited and I feel good so I hope we can put on a show for you at the Tour de France.”