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No Vuelta a España for Tadej Pogačar as Tour de France champion eyes new challenges

Pogačar to race through autumn in bid to win Il Lombardia as UAE-Team Emirates looks to keep things fresh for young superstar.

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There’s unlikely to be a Vuelta a España for Tadej Pogačar this summer, but we haven’t seen the last of the Tour de France champion just yet.

UAE-Team Emirates have stated that Pogačar will sit out the Vuelta and instead cool his jets after scoring his second yellow jersey and an Olympic bronze medal last month. He will then blast back for a late-season campaign closing with a shot at victory at his first-ever Il Lombardia.

“Tadej’s not doing the Vuelta at this moment,” UAE-Team Emirates director Allan Peiper told VeloNews.

“I don’t think there’ll be a change in that decision, considering he did the Tour and then the Olympic Games – that’s going to be a really fast turnaround. Tadej had a really heavy start of the season, and then the Tour and the Games. So I think that would be overdoing the required amount of work.”

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Pogačar’s decision to sit out the Spanish tour means the long-rumored match-up with Egan Bernal and Primož Roglič will have to wait a little longer. But Pogačar will be keeping busy nonetheless.

UAE-Emirates confirmed to VeloNews and later posted on social media that Pogačar will return to racing at the GP Plouay in late August before taking on the European championships, world championships, and Il Lombardia.

 

Despite starting his season in February and amassing stage-race wins, a monument victory, a second Tour de France title, and an Olympic bronze in the time since, Peiper said Pogačar’s thirst for competition is still strong.

“Tadej’s a racer, he wants to race, and, and he loves to race. He’s not the kind of guy that say’s ‘I’ve done the Tour I’m going to stop.’” Peiper said on a call this week. “He likes riding his bike so why wouldn’t you keep riding? The winter’s long enough and he’s a kid that really likes competition. He’s set on racing Lombardia, and a lot before.”

Pogačar’s provisional late-season schedule:

  • GP Plouay: August 30
  • European Championships (Trentino, Italy): September 12
  • World Championships (Flanders, Belgium): September 26
  • Il Lombardia: October 9

Keeping things fresh for still-young star

In July, Pogačar saw his contract extended through 2027 in a deal likely to be worth upward of 30 million euros. But Pogačar isn’t looking to lock into a comfortable groove as he counts his Rolexes in the coming years.

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At just 22-years-old, Pogačar has still only raced three grand tours. Peiper indicated the Slovenian isn’t going to pivot toward a Chris Froome-esque Tour de France focus just yet as he continues exploring his own potential.

“It’s an important thing for some riders, and especially for riders like Tadej, guys that like to race – and I know it was the same thing for Mark Cavendish – they need new goals,” Peiper said.

“Just going to the Tour de France to win the Tour or win six stages – I won’t say it’s boring, but there’s got to be other things in cycling you can focus on for fun.”

The Giro d’Italia could be Pogačar’s next big target. It’s the only three week-race Pogačar has not yet raced, and the mythical allure of the Italian tour has sunk its claws into the Slovenian’s heartstrings.

To race the Giro would require a compromise, however. In most seasons, just five weeks separate the close of the Giro and the Tour’s grand depart, and Peiper is conscious of not burning Pogačar into an early-career slump.

“Tadej’s said he’d like to ride the Giro – he finds it lovely race and he will do it sometime soon,” Peiper said. “But he’s still young. There will come a time where he’ll probably do two grand tours in a year and we’ll have to taper his program so it’s not too loaded.”

“Doing the Giro and Tour sees to be a thing of the past because they’re so close together and the races are so intense – so it would likely be the Giro and Vuelta.”

Peiper and the UAE-Team Emirates trainers have yet to map out Pogačar’s next 18 months and it’s more than likely Pogačar will return to France to defend yellow in 2022.

For now, all that Pogačar and Peiper know is that things have got to be kept fun.

“As long as you keep that fun element in there, so then racing doesn’t become a chore,” Peiper said. “The strongest point in his arsenal is that he’s relaxed and he doesn’t let things get to him. We want to keep it like that.”