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Tour de France

Tour de France: Brandon McNulty will pace Tadej Pogačar in yellow jersey defense

UAE-Team Emirates confirms strong Tour de France squad with more mountain support for the defending champion.

Tadej Pogačar will defend his Tour de France title with a stronger squad than in 2020 that includes Brandon McNulty, Rafał Majka, and Marc Hirschi.

McNulty will make his Tour debut after initially being scheduled to ride the Giro d’Italia in May. The American’s race program was changed after an impressive showing at the Itzulia Basque Country, and he will be a key rider for Pogačar across three weeks.

“It’s a privilege to be back to the Tour as the defending champion. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people and we hope we can give everyone three weeks of exciting racing,” Pogačar said Tuesday.

“My year so far has gone really well and I’m really looking forward to starting this Tour with good preparation and good condition. I am confident in myself and my team, we can’t wait for the challenge.”

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Pogačar won last year’s Tour de France by 59 seconds over Primož Roglič in a dramatic time trial on the penultimate stage. His victory at 21 — on the eve of his 22nd birthday — made him the youngest winner of the Tour in 112 years.

The UAE-Team Emirates rider will face off against Roglič for the Tour title once again, and an Ineos Grenadiers team packed with grand tour champions.

The Slovenian picked up in 2021 where he left off last year, with victories at the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and the Tour of Slovenia in June. His one minor hiccup came at Itzulia Basque Country, where he was caught off-guard by an attack by Roglič on the final day when McNulty raced in the leader’s jersey.

Pogačar took his Tour de France win last year with minimal support in the mountains, and UAE-Team Emirates made a number of key signings over the winter to bolster his back-up.

Also read: The 2021 Tour de France and the rise of the ‘super-teams’

Majka and Hirschi, who were snapped up from Bora-Hansgrohe and Team DSM respectively over the winter, were among those new signings. Hirschi won a stage of last year’s Tour after a very aggressive race, while Majka finished 12th overall at the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

Also making his Tour debut is Mikkel Bjerg, while Vegard Stake Laengen, Rui Costa, and Davide Formolo – who raced the Giro d’Italia this year – will provide experience within the team.

“Our aim for this year is clear: we are going to try and defend the title which Tadej claimed last year, so we have built a team around him. We have a good mix of youth and experience to support Tadej with a strong block of climbers and also solid riders for the flat roads,” said team manager Joxean Matxín Fernández.

“Obviously, we’ll be heavily marked by the other teams and it’s not going to be an easy task, but we are confident and know that a big result is well within the capabilities of Tadej and the team.”