Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) roared into the overall lead Thursday at the Tour of Slovenia with a solo victory.
The stage win puts him comfortably into the lead of his national tour, and sends a strong signal to his rivals that he will be ready to defend his yellow jersey at the Tour de France later this month.
“I am very happy. This is my first victory in the Tour of Slovenia and to win in front of the home crowd in a classic stage like this is beautiful,” Pogačar said. “The team did a fantastic job.”
Pogačar opted out of the traditional pre-Tour races at the Critérium du Dauphiné to race instead this week at the five-stage Slovenia tour. With Wednesday’s stage finishing in a mass gallop, Pogačar wanted to take full advantage of Thursday’s hilly stage ending with uphill finale.
The Slovenia tour is one of the few stage races Pogačar has started but not won. In three previous starts, he’s never finished better than fourth.
He seems intent on victory this weekend as he prepares for a return to the Tour.
Pogačar attacked near the summit of the Cat. 2 Svetina climb, and no one was able to follow the Slovenian who consolidated his advantage on the final 2 km ascent towards the finish line.
It was Pogačar’s first race since winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April.
“Trentin pushed all day, Oliveira took me to the foot of the final climb and the other guys helped me as best as possible until the end,” Pogačar said. “I am proud of all the guys and we aim to do well in the next stages as well.”
The race continues Friday with the 165.8km third stage on up-and-down roads from Brežice to Krško.
28th Tour of Slovenia, Stage 2, Žalec to Celje (Celjski Grad), 147km:
1. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates), 3:32:03
2. Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious), at 1:22
3. Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates), same time
GC after two stages:
1. Pogačar, 7:05:37
2. Mohorič, at 1:24
3. Ulissi, at 1:28