No, not a bad season at all. But he finished third in the balloting for the Vélo d’Or, no doubt because he did not win a Grand Tour in 2022 and had an unimpressive World Championship, finishing 19th in the road race and 6th in the time trial. And because the Vélo d’Or winner, Remco Evenepoel, won the World Road Race Championship and the Vuelta a España, and so became the latest Next Big Thing in road racing.
The Slovenian’s failure to win his third consecutive Tour de France yellow jersey this year was surprising and disappointing to his many fans who were comparing him to the great Eddy Merckx after his 2021 Tour victory. The manner in which he lost was also something of an embarrassment, as he was badly outmanoeuvered on the Col du Granon by the eventual race winner, Jonas Vingegaard, and his Jumbo-Visma teammates.
And there was Pogačar’s enormous error at the end of the Tour of Flanders when first indecision and then a bad decision caused him to finish fourth in the sprint to the finish, won by Mathieu van der Poel. Looking ahead to 2023, the Slovenian put winning that race near the top of his wish list, telling the Gazzetto dello Sport, “There’s a desire to make up for my fourth place this year at the Tour of Flanders” because the left him “really disappointed” and “frustrated with myself.”
He surely must have felt the same after the end of the 11th stage of the Tour de France in which he lost 2 min 51 sec to Vingegaard and saw his expectations of a hat trick of Tour wins disappear. So it’s no surprise that the Tour is Pogačar’s main goal for the coming year. Asked by the Gazzetto if he planned to race in the Giro d’Italia in 2023, he said, “[The Giro] is a race that I really like, it intrigues me, but circumstances have pushed me to give priority to the Tour de France. After my second place of this year, my objective is to recapture the Tour.”
To that end, surely, his UAE Team Emirates have strengthened their often-maligned team by adding the veteran climber Adam Yates from Ineos Grenadiers and Grand Tour newcomer Jay Vine who won two mountain stages in the 2022 Vuelta in only his second Grand Tour.
Although he has not yet made a final decision on his entire schedule, Pogačar did say that Milan-San Remo is a potential target, “because I haven’t managed to win it yet.” And so are the World Championships because, he said, “it’s a race I’m really missing [from my palmares] and in 2023 it will be a nice challenge, with the novelty that the rainbow jersey is up for grabs in the summer.”
The UCI World Championships will be held in Scotland from Aug. 3 to Aug. 10, which leaves him time to also have a crack at the Vuelta, if he wishes. And, according to what he told Eurosport, he wishes. “I have such good memories of the Vuelta,” he said. “It was my first Grand Tour [in 2019], I finished on the podium in three stages, and I got the white jersey as well. It’s one of the three Grand Tours where I have the most beautiful memories. I want to come back as fast as possible.”
It sounds as if, barring accident or illness, we will be seeing a lot of Tadej Pogačar next year. We can’t wait.