QUEBEC, Canada (VN) — Tadej Pogačar is swapping out his grand tour cap for that of one-day specialist in the waning days of the 2022 season.
The Slovenian superstar returns to action Friday at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec in what’s a series of one-day races to close out the season, with the world championships and Il Lombardia on the radar.
Up first are the Canadian one-days, where UAE Team Emirates brings a competitive squad anchored on Pogačar, Diego Ulissi, and George Bennett.
“My condition is pretty good and I’m focused on enjoying and doing well in this last part of the season,” Pogačar said. “On the squad we have guys who have performed well and even won here in Canada before. So I think we have lots of options for both races, which is always a nice position to be in.”
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Pogačar was the big draw at a media event Wednesday as local and international journalists wanted to get the latest on the Slovenian superstar ahead of Friday’s race in Québec and Sunday in Montréal.
He didn’t show any signs of disappointment of finishing second at the Tour de France in July to Jonas Vingegaard. After racing at the Clásica San Sebastián in July, Pogačar took a short break and skipped a planned start at the Vuelta a España.
“I had a little bit of time off, but I’ve had some nice training. I’m ready to restart the season,” Pogačar said. “When I look back on the Tour, it was a great Tour. We won three stages and I was second. You always want to win, but finishing second meant to me a lot more than almost winning in some sense.
“It’s going to give me motivation and to think about next year,” he said. “I’m in pretty good shape now, and I’m happy to be racing again.”
Pogačar raced the GP Plouay-Ouest France earlier this month, and will line up this weekend in Canada before heading to Australia for the world championships as part of a very strong Slovenian team.
Pogačar on one-day racing: ‘It’s a bit like gambling’
After that, it’s back to Italy for some more one-day racing, with Il Lombardia closing out his 2022 season in October.
Pogačar is all business this week, and says UAE Team Emirates is racing for the win Friday in Québec and again Sunday at the even harder race at Montréal.
“I think the Montreal race is better because it’s more hilly. Also on Friday, it’s a tricky race, a hard race.” he said. “If I have a good day on both, I can do good result. We also have a great team here so we have many options. If something goes wrong with me, we still have many riders on the team to get the great result. That will be the main objective.”
After the Tour, the next big goal for Pogačar is the world title. When asked what’s better, the yellow jersey of the Tour winner or the rainbow jersey of the world champion, Pogačar replied: “It would be nice to have a rainbow jersey with UAE on it.”
“This is great preparation for for the race for the words,” he said. “It’s gonna be really tough, complicated race with with a lot of smaller climbs and a lot of corners and everything. I don’t know what to expect really, there are going to be a lot of options for the world championships. So many riders could win.”
Pogačar returns to racing with his trademark smile and motivation fully intact despite falling short of winning a third straight yellow jersey in July.
That hiccup seems to have only steeled his determination to win again. And the string of one-day races across the fall calendar will be the runway into 2023 and even bigger ambitions.
Until then, Pogačar vows to keep enjoying the ride, and the one-day races will be his playground for the next few weeks.
“I have experiences in one-day races, but still, it’s not my territory. I’m still more confident with one-week races and grand tours,” he said. “One-day racing is funny racing, interesting and exciting. I never know what really to expect on the day. It’s like gambling.”
It rarely pays to bet against Pogačar.