The 24-year-old has never ridden the Italian grand tour, having opted for the Tour for the last three seasons after making his three-week debut at the 2019 Vuelta a España.
After losing out to Jonas Vingegaard at this year’s Tour de France, Pogačar is keen to rectify the result and return to the top step and add to his tally of two titles. The Slovenian still has plenty of years in his career, and he assures that there will be time to take on some other grand tours in the future.
“I would really like to go to the Giro. It’s been one of my favorite races since I was young because it’s the closest race to Slovenia, but for now, the main focus is the Tour and we will see,” Pogačar said during a press conference at a UAE Team Emirates training camp in Calpe on Monday. “Maybe after this year, after the Tour, we can see what I can still do in the next [few] years. For sure, there will be again the Giro and the Vuelta, maybe even a double grand tour in a year. But you never know: it’s cycling, and it’s unpredictable.”
- Analysis: UAE Emirates builds beyond Tadej Pogačar to strengthen ‘superteam’ status in 2023
- Tadej Pogačar on Tour de France ambitions: ‘I do not race for revenge’
- Tadej Pogačar on 2023 ambition: ‘My objective is to recapture the Tour de France’
This year’s Giro d’Italia looked like an almost perfect route for Pogačar with its three time trials, including an uphill test against the clock. The TT-heavy parcours has already attracted 2022 Vuelta a España winner Remco Evenepoel to the start line.
Pogačar likes the route but says that he’s following team orders with his tilt at taking a third Tour de France victory.
“For me, it doesn’t matter so much, the parcours; I would go anywhere if it was three time trials or one, it’s always nice to do a different race,” he said. “The pink jersey is really nice, and Italy is one of the best places to race. If it would be my choice, I would already have done it two years ago but I am not the smartest to make the decisions of the program.”
Asked if he would be tempted to try and tackle a Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double in the future, Pogačar didn’t dismiss the idea. However, he believes that going for victory in both would be a huge physical test.
There has been a small number of riders that have attempted to go for the general classification in both races in recent seasons, but none has succeeded. Marco Pantani remains the last rider to win the GC at both races in the same season back in 1998.
“It’s possible to do, but to win both is really demanding for the body and even if you can do both and win both, maybe you will feel so exhausted after that maybe you finish the career. For sure it’s a challenge but it takes a lot, a big toll on your body,” he said.
The test of time
Pogačar is one of a raft of young riders that have made an indelible mark on cycling and quickly bringing down the average age of winners at some major races. He is still comparatively young at 24, but he’s about to enter his fifth season as a professional already.
While Alejandro Valverde just retired aged 42, it remains to be seen if this new crop of young riders will continue to race that long or if we will see many of them retiring far earlier.
“We are going to see about that. Maybe we don’t have so many race starts in the season. Each race you go full gas, you try to win, and you need to be in top shape throughout the year,” he said. “We will see if I can still be good at 33 or 35, but maybe for me that will be a time when I can say it’s enough and I can try to find something else, something maybe even better.”
For now, Pogačar is still keen on going full gas and attacking as many races as he can throughout the season. After dipping his toes into the cobbled classics for the first time this season and coming away just short of a podium finish at the Tour of Flanders, he is keen to go back next year.
He’d also like to improve on his fifth-place finish from this year’s Milan-San Remo race, having already won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia.
“Sam Remo and Flanders would be one of the hardest races to win for me, even though I was not so far away this year in both,” he said. “But every year is different, so I want to go there, prepare as best as possible, and give it a shot but I am not expecting to win on my second go. Maybe I will have to go there for the rest of my career, but it’s not so much about winning. It’s just that you can race and be there with the best is a really nice feeling.”
After losing out in this year’s Tour de France, Pogačar would be forgiven for closing ranks and going all-in on the French race. However, he has eclectic tastes when it comes to bike racing and he doesn’t want to sacrifice his calendar too much to focus on a single event.
“You race almost nine or 10 months so you cannot focus on just one month as that’s a bit boring for me so I like to race throughout the year,” Pogačar said.
“One-day races come down to one day, and in the Tour there are three weeks so it’s a different sensation and feeling, but I enjoy both. Maybe if you are flying in a one-day race you just go there, ‘bam bam,’ attack and go home, but the Tour is one whole month, and the preparation takes even longer. But if you achieve your goal, you can be super happy in both.”