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Remco Evenepoel under pressure from Tadej Pogačar: ‘I did not panic’

Tadej Pogačar vs. Remco Evenepoel duel heats up at Tirreno-Adriatico.

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TERNI, Italy (VN) — Tadej Pogačar just couldn’t help himself near the end of stage 3 at Tirreno-Adriatico.

When there’s a finish line, even if it’s just for a time bonus, Pogačar attacks. The Badger would be happy.

UAE Team Emirates reeled in a breakaway and set him up for a run at a late-stage three-second bonus.

No one was surprised when the two-time Tour de France champion powered away with teammate Marc Soler and world champion Julian Alaphilippe and clawed back three more seconds to overnight leader Filippo Ganna and Remco Evenepoel.

What was a surprise was to see him keep driving the break with 27km to go. With a pack full of sprint teams keen to set up their aces ahead of Thursday’s uphill finale, even Pogačar discovered he could not ride the entire peloton off his wheel.

“I was a bit surprised that he wanted to continue with the attack to the finish line,” Evenepoel said. “Maybe he saw something in it, but when you’re still with the whole bunch, like 15km flat to the finish line, it’s quite difficult when you’re four guys in the front, and the bunch is still super-fresh.”

Maybe it was Pogačar simply getting carried away. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) bridged across, but the quartet’s adventure was over with 10km to go.

“It wasn’t planned to attack. We caught the break and there were three seconds on the road, so we took the sprint,” Pogačar said. “We had a gap, good riders up front and so we tried our best. The next days are hard, with a lot of small hard climbs, so for sure it can be something like this.”

Evenepoel bracing for more attacks from Pogačar

All eyes were on Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, especially when it appeared as if Alaphilippe was helping take pulls in the breakaway group.

Was something wrong with Evenepoel? The Belgian star said everything was under control.

“I did not panic,” Evenepoel said. “I think I stayed out of trouble, which was good. For the sprint, we tried to lead it out for Cav, but he wasn’t able to follow. I wasn’t in the red again today, so I got through the day well.”

Are Evenepoel and Quick-Step trying to set up Pogačar for a surprise, and let the Slovenian burn some matches that might cost him later?

Maybe, but it appears that Pogačar is in firm control of his destiny.

“It was not my goal to make him spend energy. It was his own decision, he is wise and professional enough to know what he has to do,” Evenepoel said. “We knew that he was going for it again today, we knew it when UAE started to speed up. Once we finished the downhill, the gap was closed almost immediately. I was a bit surprised with that move to keep going, but he had his reason to try.”

With Pogačar’s aggressive racing the past two days, he’s trimmed the difference to Evenepoel from seven to three seconds, and to Ganna from 18 to 14 seconds.

“It’s going to be a very different kind of stage tomorrow,” said Ganna, who worked to try to set up Elia Viviani for the sprint. “It’s a hard finish and I know the others will be attacking.”

Things get interesting Thursday with a circuit course finale featuring a steep, uphill finishing climb into Bellante.

“Tomorrow is a different stage, it will be difficult to drop him, but if he misses the energy tomorrow that he spent today,” Evenepoel said. “I am not going to hope for that. But you never know, maybe I can try to take some more seconds back at the finish.

“That is not what is on my mind right now. The most important is to try to follow him, and make the best out of it, and if I have an opportunity for myself, try to take it.”

If the bunch is racing for the finish line tomorrow and not just mid-race bonus seconds, you know that Pogačar is going to attack.

It will be a big test for Evenepoel to see if he can match him.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.