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Tadej Pogačar: ‘Mathieu van der Poel would lap me in cyclocross’

The Slovenian gave a candid interview about his upcoming season, and whether or not he thinks he can pull off the Giro-Tour double

Tadej Pogačar: ‘Mathieu van der Poel would lap me in cyclocross’

Tadej Pogačar thinks he would be lapped by his friend Mathieu van der Poel in cyclocross. The two-time Tour de France champion was asked a series of questions during a presentation in Abu Dhabi, announcing the partnership between the UCI and MyWhoosh. The collaboration means the virtual cycling app is the official “host” for the 2024, 2025, and 2026 indoor world championships.

Strade Bianche: a repeat of 2022?

Pog is racing Strade Bianche this weekend after skipping it in 2023. He won it back in 2022, although this year his prep has been different, having not done any races yet. He told Eurosport that normally he likes to do some racing before, but he should be OK for Saturday. “I always like to race a little bit before but when I think I have managed to simulate racing in training,” he said. “So you can come prepared that way, you can come prepared for the race.”

The UAE-Emirates’ rider will have a different season this year, including his first Giro d’Italia. For the last five years, he’s only done one Grand Tour, but for 2024, he will ride the Giro and Tour de France.

On the Giro-Tour double

“I always wanted to do the Giro, so I think it’s finally time to do it,’ he said. When asked if he thinks he could pull off the Giro-Tour double, Pog didn’t want to get ahead of himself.

“For now, let’s go step by step and see how the season starts,” he said. “And how the preparation goes.”

In November, he wasn’t sure about the Giro, but knew that The Tour was the most important. “The main goals are the Tour de France, the Olympics, and the road worlds. That’s in chronological order, not importance,” Pogačar said. “Riding the Giro is one of my dreams but I can’t say if I’ll ride. I haven’t spoken to my coaches at UAE Team Emirates, we haven’t discussed the details of what I’ll do. I will decide on my race program in December. But I might have too many obligations to include the Giro.” The Tour is bigger, he said, and will always be the most important race. “The Tour is a bit bigger. If you want to have a chance of victory, then you’ve got to focus on it. The Giro deserves respect, and that’s why I have to understand if I can be at my best to ride it. I’ve ridden the Tour four times and won it twice. If we talk about Grand Tours, the Tour is the big goal each season.”

As far as him winning the Olympics, he’s not sure yet. “I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s not the best parcours for me.”

In 2023, Pogacar’s Tour de France campaign faced obstacles due to an injury suffered in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Nursing a broken wrist, he had to take a few weeks off the bike and miss several customary pre-Tour races and training sessions. Despite striving for the yellow jersey, engaging in a fierce competition with the Dane Jonas Vingegaard, he eventually succumbed to fatigue on Stage 17. In an unforgettable moment of the day, he exclaimed, “I’m gone, I’m dead.”

Pog and Mathieu van der Poel and cyclocross

He also spoke of his friendship with world road and ‘cross champion Mathieu van der Poel. “We are good friends. We rode together in Spain, we met each other,” he said. “It was a coincidence, we saw him on the road, and we rode a couple of hours together. But he had a cyclocross race after so he had to go.”

When asked if the Slovenian would ever do ‘cross at the professional level, he was quick to answer. “I would say one day, but I think it’s not for me. Mathieu would probably lap me,” he laughed. “I cannot jump over the barriers and stuff like this either.”

The two-time Tour de France rider has ridden cyclocross, in fact, just never at the top level. And it turns out he’s being a little humble about his skills.

In December 2022, he raced the Ciklokros Ljubljana race in Slovenia, securing a second-place finish behind national champion Mihael Štajnar. (And he even jumped some planks, albeit quite a bit smaller than the 40 cm versions you see at the UCI World Cups. That wasn’t Pogacar’s first venture into cyclocross; he previously took the national championship title in 2018 and has competed in one or two races every winter. In fact, he was victorious in the same Ljubljana race in 2021.

Strade Bianche takes place this Saturday.