Tadej Pogačar at the Giro d'Italia.

As he dominates the Giro, Pogačar has the Tour on his mind

The race leader can take a 'more defensive' approach now.

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 13.05.2024 Photography by
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In the midst of a dominant showing so far at the 2024 Giro d’Italia, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) can’t help but think about a whole ‘nother Grand Tour on his calendar. The looming Tour de France, and Pogačar’s aspiration to pull off the elusive Giro-Tour double, may have already impacted his approach to the Grand Tour he’s currently racing, and it could play a role moving forward too.

“It is in the mind, the Tour, as well,” Pogačar said on Monday from Naples in a rest day press conference at the Giro. “I can, let’s say, not try to go too much, pushing over the limits, to take time on the other rivals. Now it’s more defensive riding and you use as much as possible the team to bring me to finish lines.”

Pogačar currently sits 2:40 ahead of second-placed Daniel Martínez (Bora-Hansgrohe) on the overall standings in Italy, a gap he gained in part thanks to opportunistic climbing on stages 1, 2, and 8, and especially thanks to his show-stopping time trial on stage 7. Along the way, he collected three stage victories, a third of those on offer so far.

Perhaps that will change if Pogačar does, in fact, shift into that more “defensive” mindset moving forward with an eye towards keeping something in the tank for when the Tour de France rolls out from Florence in a month and a half. As he pointed out, relying on his teammates could be a key part of that strategy. So far, they too have been up to the challenge of supporting the Giro’s dominant rider, answering any questions that might have been asked about Pogačar’s team strength, at least up to this point in the race.

In fact, Pogačar said on Monday that it is nothing new for UAE to feel underestimated as a Grand Tour support squad.

“I’m just used to it now that media and competitors just try to undermine them and us, that we don’t have a good team,” Pogačar said. Everybody can say this, but we will show always otherwise. I think we prove over and over again that we are one of the best teams. Even if not, we are not all the biggest names [at] the UAE team, we are working so well, and everybody’s giving 100 percent. So we are really strong team, and I’m super happy to be to be part of it.”

Rafał Majka, in particular, has been a stalwart for Pogačar this Giro just as he has been in other Grand Tours, as has been apparent when UAE has decided to set the pace on the climbs in the race or chase down attacks from rivals.

Pogačar, Majka, and the rest of the team will have a few chances to do more of the same in the coming week as the Giro takes on another mountain stage on Tuesday and a particularly difficult one on Sunday, while Saturday’s individual time trial will be another chance for the Slovenian star to do his own thing and further bolster his GC lead.

If Pogačar can add to the nearly three minutes he has in the bag already, he will be even better placed to ride conservatively through the second half of the race. That could at least mean more chances for his rivals to take stage victories as Pogačar himself starts thinking more and more about the Tour, where the participation of defending champion Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) remains a question mark after his crash at the Itzulia Basque Country.

That said, Vingegaard did return to riding outside last week. During his Giro rest day press conference, Pogačar wished his biggest Grand Tour rival well during his journey back to full strength – and he said that he expected the Dane to be ready for the Tour.

“I was really happy to see him on the bike and that he shared some news on [the] media, and I’m looking forward to see him at the Tour,” Pogačar said. “I think he’s going to be there. I think he’s going to be in good shape quite possibly, so I really wish him the best recovery now in these days and that he can start pushing on the pedals fast, and go for altitude training. I think we will see him at the Tour in very good shape.”

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