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Pogacar relaxed as debut Tour de France draws closer

21-year-old Slovenian not concerned by lost training time or missed racing opportunities as coronavirus blights sophomore season.

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After a breakout 2019 season, Tadej Pogacar has had to hit the brakes as coronavirus put a stop to racing. But the young Slovenian isn’t worried about the lost racing or training time.

The 21-year-old started the season on a tear, winning the Volta a Valenciana in early February and placing second in the ill-fated UAE Tour later that month. The results backed up his third place in 2019’s Vuelta a España and saw him riding a wave of confidence as he set his sights on his first Tour de France start this summer.

With the Tour de France still due to go ahead August 29, Pogacar isn’t concerned that the racing stop won’t have impaired his exponential progression and grand tour goals.

“The truth is that I am still young, so I will have opportunities in the future,” Pogacar told Spanish news outlet El Tiempo. “So far I have been on the WorldTour for two years, and I am 21 years old. At least I hope, that I have more opportunities to compete.”

Pogacar will be leading his UAE-Team Emirates squad at the Tour later this summer, stating that he’s “relaxed” at the prospect of heading up his powerful team. Like many in the peloton, Pogacar has been in lockdown at his new home in Monaco, riding his trainer and using Zwift. The prospect of racing those who have been free to train on the open roads in nations such as Belgium, Switzerland, and the UK is not a concern.

“In the coming weeks, most of the boys will be training on the roads again, so a similar level can be found before the competitions begin,” Pogacar said. “There is talk of going out to train in France, and in other countries there is not so much restriction.”

“Many of the teams are preparing training camps right now, before the races begin again,” he said. “At least that’s what I realize when I read and talk to my friends.”

This weekend, riders in Spain were able to train outside under certain restrictions for the first time in weeks, and quarantines in France, Italy and Andorra are due to be lifted in the coming days.

Among those that Pogacar is set to line up against in the battle for the yellow jersey are the likes of grand tour stalwarts Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin, and countryman Primoz Roglic. Despite being hailed as the new kid on the grand tour block, 21-year-old Pogacar showed deference to his older rivals.

“They are still some of the top favorites to win the big competitions,” Pogacar said of the trio. “They have experience, they are excellent cyclists, they have not lost validity and that must be respected.”

“I am still learning from older riders. In the Tour of Spain last year I shared a room with Marco Marcato, who has been a professional for almost 15 years, he helped me a lot.”

Pogacar heads into this year’s Tour as one of the shortlist of favorites, where he will be looking to show that sometimes youth can better experience.