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Pogačar ready to ‘test himself against the best’ at Tour debut

Young Slovenian feeling 'fit and strong' with racing on the horizon.

Tadej Pogačar is straining at the leash to get his sophomore WorldTour season rolling again.

Having taken third at last year’s Vuelta a Espana and top slot at the Amgen Tour of California, there was little surprise when UAE-Team Emirates confirmed their Slovenian star would be leading the team at the Tour de France alongside Sardinian Fabio Aru.

Far from being daunted at the prospect of racing against the likes of Chris Froome, Egan Bernal, Tom Dumoulin and countryman Primož Roglič at this summer’s Tour, the 21-year-old is eager to match himself up against such established grand tour riders.

“The Tour de France is the biggest and most well-known race in the world and the pinnacle of any rider’s career,” Pogačar said on his team’s website this week. “I’m super-excited to be in the team and can’t wait to test myself against the best riders in the world at one of the hardest tours.”

Having shone in 2019, Pogačar carried his momentum through the winter, and netted a win at Volta a la Communitat Valenciana and second-place at the UAE-Tour. He will restart his season at the Vuelta a Burgos, July 28.

“I started the season very strong and will be looking to recapture my form in the early races,” he said, adding that he is “feeling fit and strong” with six weeks remaining until the calendar resumes.

UAE Team Emirates isn’t only nailing its hopes on Pogacar this summer, but for many years to come. The team recently extended their deal with their young leader in a five-year agreement.

“Since I arrived at UAE-Team Emirates, I felt part of the family. I have many friends in the team and there has always been a good atmosphere with the riders and the staff. That’s also one of the main reasons why I recently renewed my contract with the team until 2024,” Pogačar said. “The UAE-Team Emirates is a long-term project with some strong sponsors, and I am proud to be part of it. It is also important to have some security for the coming years.”

Pogačar found himself caught at his training base in Monaco at the start of the European coronavirus lockdown. However, with the epidemic less fearsome and restrictions less tight in Slovenia, Pogačar returned home when he could.

Pogačar will get an earlier return to competition than most, and will be racing against future Tour de France rival Roglič at his country’s national championships Sunday in what should prove an interesting early insight into their form after the three-month racing stop.