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Tour de France

Brandon McNulty: Winning this Tour de France with Tadej Pogačar is the biggest challenge yet

'Last year we were in a different position but it’s a different race and every year is different. We’re here to fight,' says American climber.

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It’s not over until it’s over and Brandon McNulty certainly isn’t about to throw in the towel as he looks to guide Tadej Pogačar back into the yellow jersey at this year’s Tour de France.

McNulty’s UAE Team Emirates squad has been up against it this last week, losing two riders to COVID-19 protocols and then dropping the yellow jersey on the Col du Granon to main rival Jonas Vingegaard.

Pogačar currently sits 2:22 behind Vingegaard in the overall standings and McNulty acknowledged the daunting challenge his team faced if they are to rescue this year’s title. When asked if this was the biggest challenge he had so far faced in his young career the American replied: “Probably. To come back from a deficit like this would be a lot of work but we’re all up for it.”

“Last year we were in a different position but it’s a different race and every year is different. We’re here to fight,” McNulty said, pointing to the fact that last year’s Tour de France was virtually over with Pogačar enjoying a commanding lead that he only built on all the way to Paris.

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On a personal level, McNulty admitted that he, just like his leader, has endured an up and down Tour de France. The American has shown flashes of his climbing class but he has also been vulnerable at times too.

“It’s been a bit up and down. I was feeling really good the first week or so. The first day after the rest day I was good and then on the Granon I was a bit empty. It was super hard and I’ve been suffering the last few days but I think that I’ll be able to come back up for the Pyrénées I hope.”

Not having the yellow jersey for a set of intermediate stages could be a blessing in disguise for UAE Team Emirates. They will not need to worry about chasing breaks or carrying the yellow jersey and can instead use this time to regroup and recharge their batteries before the possible comeback in the Pyrénées.

“There’s definitely more pressure on the climbing guys like me and Rafal Majka and Marc Soler but now I just need to focus on being as good as possible next week. It sucks to lose the jersey and we would have liked to keep it obviously but to control a day like today, and tomorrow is going to be a lot. It’s not nice to be two minutes down but it’s also nice not having to pull.”

According to McNulty the mood within the UAE camp remains upbeat. The team has not collapsed in on itself and on Alpe d’Huez on stage 12 Pogačar at least took the fight to Vingegaard. He wasn’t able to drop the Dane but there was clear intent from the Slovenian to at least try and worry his rival.

“He really wanted to see where his legs were and to see if he was back mentally to where he should be. The signs are still positive for him to have a shot and come back. Easier said than done to do that but for sure he’ll try.”