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Tadej Pogačar’s 2021 plan: ‘Defend my Tour de France title’

World championships and classics on radar, but no Vuelta a España for 2020.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) has barely had a chance to catch his breath after winning the Tour de France on Sunday.

Pogačar celebrated his 22nd birthday Monday, went home to visit his girlfriend in Monaco for a few days, and now he’s lining up for the world championship in Imola this weekend.

What’s next for the recently-crowned Tour champion?

In the short term, Pogačar will race the worlds Sunday, and then the Belgian northern classics, including Flèche Wallonne (September 29), Liège-Bastogne-Liège (October 4), and likely Ronde van Vlaanderen (October 18).

With COVID-19 disrupting the calendar, there won’t be any post-Tour critériums. It’s right back into racing, though team officials confirmed Pogačar will not race the Vuelta a España next month.

In the long term, it’s about winning another yellow jersey.

“Now that I won Tour de France, for sure I need to find new goals,” Pogačar told journalists in a video call. “I will try to defend my Tour de France title but next is the world championships, so this is my goal in the coming days. In the future, I just want to be at my best and try to win again.”

The 22-year-old still seems a bit stunned by his historic yellow jersey victory Sunday in Paris. His final-hour turn-around at the Belles Filles time trial made him the first Slovenian rider to win the Tour as well as the youngest winner in the modern era.

Pogačar smashed the stage 20 Tour de France time trial. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

“This hasn’t sunk in yet,” Pogačar said. “I think it will be a long time until I realize that I won the biggest race in the world. It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid: to be on the start list of the Tour de France and now I had the opportunity to race with the best. Then to win it is unbelievable for me.”

Pogačar said his hardest day came on the Col de la Loze in the Alps, when he ceded 15 seconds to Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), and settled into second place overall.

Things turned upside in the time trial on La Planche des Belles Filles. Pogačar delivered a stunning stage-winning performance while Roglič, typically stronger in a climbing time trial, could not produce the power that he was expecting.

“We started in the mind of going for the top five [in the GC standings],” Pogačar said. “That was the main goal, but when I was second, we tried to defend it and tried to get some time back on Primož. It looked impossible with his strong team and then at the time trial, we were quite surprised by what I did.

“It was the first plan for the Tour de France from the December camp. The program was all for the Tour, but with COVID, things changed, but it gave us the advantage to plan better,” Pogačar sid. “The team believed in me. It was a bit of a surprise to arrive in yellow in Paris. In the time trial, we were all quite surprised by what I did.”