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It wasn’t the Tour that he or many pundits expected, but he left Paris with second place, three stage victories, and his motivation re-set following the jolt the ever-steady Dane sent across the peloton.
UAE Team Emirates sport director Joxean Fernández Matxín said the balance of the Tour tipped away from the team when illness and injuries depleted its ranks. George Bennett and Vegard Stake Laengen left with COVID-19, and Rafal Majka and Marc Soler abandoned in the Alps.
“It’s a bittersweet Tour for us, because when you come to the race to win and you don’t, that’s what you feel,” Fernández Matxín told AS. “Pogačar’s power numbers were as good, and in some cases even better than in 2021.
“On the day of the Col du Granon he had a collapse and he lost three minutes,” he said. “We don’t want to take anything away from Vingegaard, far from it, but if we had a complete team that would have been much more complicated for that to have happened. Still, we have to congratulate the winner.”
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The Slovenian superstar was supporting his girlfriend at this week’s Tour de France Femmes, and UAE Team Emirates officials confirmed Tuesday he will not start the Vuelta a España starting August 19 in the Netherlands.
Instead, Pogačar will race a series of one-day races across Europe and Canada, and return to the world championships in Australia. He will race at the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday in Spain.
Brandon McNulty also penciled in to start the Vuelta, along with Joâo Almeida, Pascal Ackermann, and Rafal Majka.
‘There’s nothing to be unsatisfied about for what he achieved’
Fernández Matxín applauded Pogačar for his fighting spirit all the way until the final time trial, and said the young Slovenian never gave up and never stopped smiling and enjoying the race.
“Tadej has huge talent and he’s very optimistic,” Fernández Matxín told AS. “It was obvious when he saw on the Hautacam that he couldn’t take back any time and in the time trial as well, the options of victory ended there, but he never stopped trying.
“For example, on the Hautacam, he could have saved himself until the final climb, fought for the stage victory and the King of the Mountains jersey. But he didn’t do it. He wanted to win the Tour and he took risks,” he said. “There’s nothing to be unsatisfied about for what he achieved.”