Before turning 23 years old, the Slovenian already has a spectacular track record in which his two Tour de France stand out
Is it the beginning of a long series? Tadej Pogacar, who repeated his triumph last year in the Tour de France, has a clear path for the next few years if he can overcome the obstacles that await him.
“He has won the Tour at an age when Eddy Merckx had not raced it yet,” said ‘Grande Boucle’ director Christian Prudhomme. Before even turning 23, the Slovenian already has a spectacular track record.
Only in the 2021 season has he conquered a ‘monument’ (Liege-Bastogne-Liege) and the Tour, the most important race of the year. To that I might add the Tokyo Games road event, “my next goal,” he announced. And then, perhaps, the Tour of Spain, which begins in mid-August, although unlike his UAE team, the cyclist showed doubts on Saturday about his participation: «We will see after the Games, I want to rest, to recover ».
Pogacar himself discarded the hypothesis of an era of absolute domination, opened by his double triumph. “A new generation is emerging, with Tom Pidcock, Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert, Jonas Vingegaard, Remco Evenepoel …”, the Slovenian listed. “We are going to have incredible battles.”
To this list is evidently added the number 1 team of the peloton, Ineos, defeated in the last two years but armed to rival at least collectively. Who will be your leader in 2022? Winner of the Tour in 2019, broken the following year, the Colombian climber Egan Bernal dominated the Giro d’Italia in May without, yes, the same superiority as the Slovenian. But at the age of 24, this great talent is far from having said his last word, while the young Pidcock (21 years old), who has not yet run his first great lap, begins to appear.
Prudhomme underlined the Slovenian’s “range of capabilities”, comfortable on all terrains, the strongest this year in time trial and mountain. Your sense of location adds to the collection. Taught by his misfortune on the 2020 Tour, he was not surprised at fan attempts. Finally, unlike its main rivals (Primoz Roglic, Geraint Thomas), the future yellow jersey was able to overcome the falls of the first week.
All this makes it a complete runner, capable of adapting to all kinds of routes. The unknown remains of the cobblestones, where Pogacar has never raced in competition since he turned professional in 2019. The start of the 2022 Tour in Denmark suggests that the first week of the race will be like a classic flat with the possibility of cobbled sectors of the Paris-Roubaix if the race enters France from the north. However, the Slovenian has participated in the last three editions of the Strade Bianche, the unpaved dirt roads in Tuscany and has been improving his results (30th, 13th and 7th).
As the French Laurent Fignon, surprise winner of his first Tour de France in 1983 and great dominator the following year, knew, anything can happen. Contrary to what it seemed, Fignon, who was 23 when he wore his second crown, subsequently failed each time he tried to win the ‘Grande Boucle’.
The risk of illness or injury – as in the case of Belgian Evenepoel, the victim of a hard fall at the Giro de Lombardia – is part of a race. The same as the risk of a sanction if the red line of doping is crossed, be it medical or technological. “For me it is clear, doping is a plague,” repeated Pogacar, who mentions the multiple controls in which he has always tested negative. But the absence of positive controls has long been enough to end suspicions in elite sport.