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ROCAMADOUR, France (VN) – The modern-day “Cannibal” is already hungry for the 2023 Tour de France.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) finished a near third to second-place Jonas Vingegaard in Saturday’s 40.7km time trial razzle to Rocamadour.
Like the situation throughout so much of the race so far, Pogačar was oh-so-close, yet oh-so-far from the Jumbo-Visma captain that derailed his chance for a third-straight Tour victory in a result that left him already planning for more.
“This year’s Tour is going to make me more hungry, more eager to win more,” Pogačar said at his press conference Saturday.
“I like challenges in life. I saw a really big challenge this year in Jonas that I couldn’t beat. I’m really motivated for the next races and the next Tour de France, to be better and to beat that obstacle and get over this challenge.”
A Tour gone wrong on the Granon
Pogačar’s third Tour has been hit with hurdles. Down to three UAE Emirates teammates by stage 17 and braced against the might of a mega-motivated Vingegaard and Jumbo-Visma, Pogačar hammered hard but couldn’t hit home.
“This Tour, there was almost no weaknesses in them,” Pogačar said of Jumbo-Visma. “They lost two riders but in the end, it didn’t seem like they had any less, maybe because we had only four.”
Pogačar conceded his own utter commitment to causing carnage and racing aggressively compounded the problem of matching up against a near-peerless opponent.
“One mistake I did make was the stage to the Granon. I was too motivated to cover everyone and I caved in the end really hard,” he said.
The two-time defending champion’s title defense came off the rails in one disaster day deep in the Alps that saw him lose nearly three minutes to Vingegaard. Pogačar countered the chaos of Jumbo-Visma’s repeated attacks before crumbling on the cruel slopes of the Granon summit finish.
The 23-year-old said his Tour de France was riddled with small mistakes, and that his gameplay on stage 11 to the Granon was an outlier of a different dimension.
“That was one mistake from my side, but there are other things. I will analyze after the Tour. And for sure we had bad luck with COVID, and before the Tour and in the middle of the Tour we were only riding with four riders. There were a lot of factors we can go all day on,” he said.
“I’ve learned a lot. A lot of small mistakes have been made from me and the team. It’s nothing huge but for sure we can improve and try to get better at those little things”
Pogačar made his name with his “total-racing” all-or-nothing verve. Long-range raids in grand tour stages became no less surprising than taking Tour of Flanders to Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) or winning Strade Bianche on debut.
Pogačar’s vibrant flair won’t go grey in the wake of Tour defeat.
“On the Granon it was a mistake, but given the circumstances I think it was reasonable,” he said. “They outplayed me really smart and were really strong as well. It was only one stage, but all the stages before and after they were really good. I enjoyed racing so much. I won’t change my style of riding.”
Matching Jumbo-Visma in 2023
Pogačar dismantled Jumbo-Visma, and the whole peloton, in his past two Tour triumphs.
2022 was different.
Vingegaard and Jumbo-Visma came out of the blocks hot and didn’t slow down, all the way until Wout van Aert and Vingegaard went one-two in the race’s final GC-centric stage on Saturday.
The Dutch team won yellow, green, six stages, and the supercombativity prize and could also win on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday.
“They rode really perfectly this Tour, they rode perfectly all of them. They really showed that they’re really strong. But every year is a bit different. A lot of things can happen, like with us this year, with bad luck in preparation and in the race.” Pogačar said.
That Pogačar placed third behind Jumbo-Visma’s twin captaincy tandem in the Tour’s penultimate TT was perhaps a symbol of the race as a whole. Jumbo-Visma stepped up, and an outnumbered Pogačar couldn’t keep up.
Pogačar is already booking his Tour ticket for 2023 and looking for better.
“We hope we can get better luck next year and get better at small things and that we can match this year’s Jumbo-Visma,” he said.