Pogacar makes Tour of Flanders main goal in 2023

Tadej Pogacar (24) is on an internship with UAE Team Emirates in La Nucia, Spain. “I’ve been training for three weeks now,” he says. “There was quite a bit of intensity and interval involved. But the new season is still some way off, so take it easy. Contrary to previous years, I don’t want to be top in my first competitions. The aim is to become progressively stronger towards the really big goals. Perhaps I will also cancel the altitude training in the run-up to my competitive debut in the UAE Tour.”

His program in 2023 will more or less be a copy of 2022, he says. “After the UAE Tour, it goes via Tirreno-Adriatico to Milan-Sanremo, and thus into the classic spring.” In addition to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Pogacar will again ride the Tour of Flanders. “After this year’s great experience, I’m even making Flanders a main goal. I can’t wait already. In principle, I’m also taking part in Dwars door Vlaanderen. With Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders is the most difficult monument to win for me. That course, those cobbled slopes, the wildly enthusiastic audience: all very special. I am convinced that profit is possible.”

Out for revenge

He is quite satisfied with his last season. “Purely in terms of victories (sixteen, JDK) it was one of my best ever.” But in the Tour he came second. That must hurt, right? “Being second is not really a defeat for me. Especially if you look at the full picture: three stage victories and best youngster. Look, at this stage of my career, the season is more than just the Tour. I race all year long to win. Will that take its revenge later, at the age of 35? We’ll see. For now it is full gas in all major races.”

The Slovenian jokes that he is only not a top favorite in the final stage of the Tour on the Champs-Elysees. “The World Cup has also not been my thing so far. But it’s in my nature to give my best wherever I start. It’s not that second place in the Tour saddles me with an angry feeling. It makes me super motivated.”

The Dane Jonas Vingegaard wears the yellow in Paris.  Image AP

The Dane Jonas Vingegaard wears the yellow in Paris.Image AP

After a sudden gust of wind, press secretary Luke McGuire in the courtyard of the hotel is just able to prevent a publicity screen from landing on Pogacar’s head. McGuire: “Phew, you almost didn’t even make it to the 2023 Tour, Tadej.”

Was Pogacar beaten in the last Tour de France by a stronger rider? Or by a stronger team? “It is true that we were not spared bad luck,” says the UAE leader. “Covid, injuries, other ailments… In the end, there were only four of us left. But honestly, even with eight we would have had a hard time against Jonas Vingegaard, who was just better uphill and against the clock.”

Ever to Giro

World champion Remco Evenepoel will ride the Giro d’Italia next season. For the Slovenian, this was one of his favorite races as a child. “Of the ‘big three’, it is the lap closest to home. And the pink sweater is one of the most beautiful, mythical leader’s jerseys in existence. Actually, I should have entered two years ago. But I’m not the smartest when it comes to making decisions, you know. The fact is: one day I will ride the Giro and possibly even combine it with the Vuelta. But not yet. In 2023, the Tour will again be an absolute priority.”

He calls the Giro-Tour combination very challenging and not necessarily impossible. “But they both ride to win, that would take a huge toll on my body. Even if I succeed, I will be so exhausted afterwards that it might mean the end of my career. (laughs) And it is still too early for that.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *