Tadej Pogačar on the Tour: ‘For sure it’s in the back of my mind’

By Monica Buck

With a significant lead in the Giro d’Italia, Tadej Pogačar is already setting his sights on the Tour de France in July, aiming to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win both races in the same year.

Currently holding a 2:40 lead over his rivals, Pogačar has been dominant in this year’s Giro, winning three stages so far, including the stage seven time trial in Perugia. Despite the race being far from over, his substantial advantage allows him to consider a more defensive strategy moving forward.

Speaking on Monday afternoon during the race’s first rest day, Pogačar mentioned that he can now afford to ride more defensively but will still pursue stage wins if opportunities arise.

“For sure it’s in the back of my mind,” Pogačar said when asked about the Tour. “That’s why I’m happy that I now have a bigger gap so I don’t need to try and push too much over the limit to take time on the other guys. Now it’s more defensive riding and using the team as much as possible to bring me to the finish line. If someone told me that I’m leading with 2:40 [by the first rest day] I would have signed it right away.”

Currently, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Dani Martínez is in second place in the general classification, with Geraint Thomas of Ineos Grenadiers in third. Reflecting on his performance so far, Pogačar stated, “Luckily the first week went super well for me in the climbs and in the time trial so I could take some good time on the other competitors. But I really think we can be prepared, especially in the third week, for big attacks from the others, especially Ineos who have big cards to play with Thymen Arensman and Geraint Thomas. It could be really hard racing on the stages to come with climbing, so anything can happen and I just need to be ready for it, to have the right mindset for the different stages and to keep pushing to the end, even if I’m having a bad day. It’s great to have such a time gap for now.”

Pogačar has cherished his experience in the Italian Grand Tour, describing it as enjoyable and memorable. “The favourite win of my three stages would be the time trial or stage two at Santuario di Oropa,” he said. “All three were kind of special with a different story for each one of them, but I think maybe the time trial was probably the biggest I would say.”

Before the Giro began, Pogačar dismissed media suggestions that it would be a one-man show. During Monday’s press conference, he also highlighted the underappreciation of his UAE Team Emirates teammates. “I am just used to it now that the media and competitors try to undermine them,” he said. “Everyone can say this but we will show otherwise. We’ve proven over and over again that we’re one of the best teams, even if we’re not full of the biggest names.”

As the Giro resumes on Tuesday with a mountain top finish at Cusano Mutri, Pogačar did not rule out fighting for the win, even with the challenging Mortirolo pass approaching next weekend. “If there’s a similar situation to Prati di Tivo tomorrow, we can aim again for victory. We’re thinking day by day and keeping each other together as the last day of this week might possibly be the hardest I’ve ever done. I’m super excited to go to Livigno over the Mortirolo, where I’ve trained a lot before so I’m really looking forward to that stage.”