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Tadej Pogačar defends ahead of ‘Marco Pantani’ climb to decide Tirreno-Adriatico

Pogačar says miscue cost them a chance to contest for stage, but he retains leader's jersey going into Saturday's ‘Pantani’ climb finale.

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FERMO, Italy (VN) — It’s going to take more than going the wrong way in a finale to beat Tadej Pogačar.

Pogačar was following a late attack by Remco Evenepoel in Friday’s closing kilometers at Tirreno-Adriatico when he was part of a leading trio that included Jonas Vingegaard that steered off-course.

Pogačar shrugged off the mishap and chased back to the GC leaders, only regretting that it might have cost them a chance to win the stage.

“I think it could have changed, because Remco and Jonas, they both wanted to go for it,” Pogačar said. “They were both really strong, and I was there as well trying to go with them. We were three strong guys in the front and maybe we could fight for the stage win, also.”

Also read: UAE Emirates winning on two fronts 

The late-race misread of the right-hand corner came at the tail-end of a hard stage. A big group had pulled clear that included some GC threats, forcing UAE Team Emirates to work harder than perhaps it wanted to.

“We didn’t underestimate anyone in the breakaway, and there were some strong riders in the break who were close on GC,” he said. “We would like to see a slightly different breakaway, but it was not possible because it 60km full-gas to make the breakaway. In the end, we had to ride hard to limit the time — we did it perfectly.”

So what happened on that corner? Pogačar was on Evenepoel’s wheel when all three went straight instead of turning right toward the finish line.

The hiccup might have given eventual stage-winner Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) the extra rope he needed to win.

“It was not clear at all. There was a pink arrow to the right, but on the main road, you could see it going also right, a few hundred meters to the front was a side road,” Pogačar said. “At our speed, it was impossible to see it. I could not. I know a right corner was coming, but I didn’t know it was that one. It was a bad situation at the moment, but we recovered, and it was painful. In the end, for the leader’s jersey, it was no question.”

Tirreno title to be decided Saturday

Pogačar is on the way to defending his title. (Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Pogačar’s title defense at Tirreno-Adriatico is on the line in Saturday’s 215km stage from Apecchi to Carpegna. The challenging profile ends with two passages up Monte Carpegna, a favorite training climb of the late Marco Pantani.

At 6.2km at 9.6 percent, it’s rated as hors-categorie and will pack some sting at the end of a hard race.

Two climbs are featured late in the stage, with a downhill run from the summit to the finish line.

When asked what he thought of Pantani, the journalist asking the question seemed to forget that Pogačar had not even been born yet when Pantani won the Tour de France in 1998.

“I couldn’t see Pantani race live, unfortunately, I was too young,” Pogačar said. “I know him and I saw the videos, thank God for YouTube. Tomorrow is his climb, it’s a pretty tough one. I am looking forward to climbing on this climb, and it’s going to be a fantastic day of racing.”

If Pogačar lives up to his growing reputation, you can bet he will attack to win.