Joxean Fernandez Matxín believes UAE-Team Emirates has the foundations to be the best.
With UAE-Team Emirates heading toward the Tour de France with one of the long-list of bona fide favorites, 21-year-old Tadej Pogačar, manager Fernandez Matxín believes his team is on the pathway to the top.
“The focus is that,” Fernandez Matxín said when asked if the squad could become the best in the world. “Having a goal is 50 percent of the job because it gives you motivation. Slowly we must build a good present because an excellent future is already ready.”
Pogačar is the bedrock in UAE-Team Emirates’ long haul to WorldTour dominance, with the budding young star locked into a deal through 2024. Fernandez Matxín has become known for unearthing and developing young talents having previously worked as a rider scout at Quick-Step. His Emirati team also includes Brandon McNulty, 21, Jasper Philipsen, 22, and recent five-year signing Juan Ayuso, just 17 years of age.
Pogačar has already proven he has what it takes to be up there with the best, taking third in last year’s Vuelta a España and ripping through the start of 2020 with consecutive stage race podium-finishes. Fernandez Matxín feels there’s a lot more to come from the youngster, who placed second behind Primoz Roglič at the Slovenian nationals this weekend.
“He and Evenepoel are the future,” Fernandez Matxín told Tuttobiciweb. “Tadej is a rider who goes faster every day, unique in the world. He has a monstrous recovery and an incredible head. He has legs that look like a pupil’s and therefore ample room for improvement. Respects everyone, including staff. And he has values as a person.”
Pogačar has made it clear he’s ready to “test himself against the best” at his debut Tour this summer, where he will lead the team alongside Fabio Aru, backed up by strong climbers Davide Formolo and David De la Cruz.
While Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma go into this summer’s Grande Boucle as the teams to beat, the likes of UAE-Team Emirates, Groupama-FDJ and Bahrain-Merida won’t be far behind. And if there’s any year to topple Ineos from their Tour de France throne, with leadership tensions rippling through its trio of captains, this could be the time to do it.
“This year is perhaps the year in which they are less strong,” Fernandez Matxín said. “As a Spanish proverb says: ‘in the swollen river the fisherman wins.’
“Let’s see. I am not a magician, but it is obvious that with all the statements they are making, each of them is trying to carve out his space. Froome has won four times and demands respect. Bernal is the last winner and asks for respect. Thomas won and finished second…”
If UAE-Team Emirates and Pogačar are the future, this summer could be their time to show it.