Pogacar returns to lead squad at Tour de France - GulfToday

Pogacar returns to lead squad at Tour de France


Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

The UAE Team Emirates have unveiled the team heading into the Tour de France (June-26 to July-18) to start the Grand Boucles which begins from the city of Brest.

The team enter the 21 stages led by 2020 champion Tadej Pogacar, with a mix of climbers and flat-terrain experts to support the Slovenian.

Last year, Pogacar made history in September when he became the youngest Tour de France champion in 116 years and first winner from Slovenia.

He won last year’s race in dramatic fashion when he snatched the overall lead from compatriot Primoz Roglic on the penultimate stage.

He is the only rider to win the Tour de France’s famous yellow jersey, young rider and ‘King of the Mountains’ classifications at the same time.

Pogacar also claimed three stages and took the young rider’s white jersey at the 2019 Vuelta a Espana, which was won by Roglic.

With the Grand Tour race back in its usual June-July slot following last year’s pandemic-enforced rescheduling, Pogacar returns as one of the leading contenders.

This year’s route covers a total distance of 3,383 kilometres and is notable for two long individual time trials (totalling 58km) which will be crucial in the battle for the yellow jersey. The race will spend much of the first week on the flat, rolling roads of Brittany before transitioning over to the Alps and onto the Pyrenees before the surviving riders make it to the Champs Elysees in Paris.

Team Manager Joxean Matxin Fernandez (Spa) will lead the squad alongside Sports Directors Andrej Hauptman (Slo) and Simone Pedrazzini (Swi). The team is comprised of 8 riders: Pogacar (Slo), Rafal Majka (Pol), Davide Formolo (Ita), Brandon McNulty (US), Marc Hirschi (Swi), Mikkel Bjerg (Den), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Rui Costa (Por).

Pogacar: “It’s a privilege to be back to the Tour as the defending champion. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people and we hope we can give everyone 3 weeks of exciting racing.

“My year so far has gone really well and I’m really looking forward to starting this Tour with good preparation and good condition. I am confident in myself and my team, we can’t wait for the challenge,” he added.

The Slovenian rider heads Tour de France in fine form following a successful season. Pogacar began the year with a dominating victory in the Tirreno–Adriatico, before winning the team’s home race at the UAE Tour. Pogacar then won his first Classic at Liege–Bastogne–Liege, and most recently took the title at the Tour of Slovenia.

After the Tour, which ends on July 18, Pogacar plans to compete in the Olympic road race in Japan on July 24.

“I want a holiday after the Olympics,” he said.

Few months ago, Pogacar committed his future to UAE Team Emirates by signing a new deal to 2026.

Pogacar joined UAE in 2019 after training in the continental team Ljubljana Gusto Santi, and had already extended his contract last year until 2024.

Joxean Matxin Fernandez (Team Manager): “Our aim for this year is clear: we are going to try and defend the title which Tadej claimed last year, so we have built a team around him. We have a good mix of youth and experience to support Tadej with a strong block of climbers and solid riders for the flat roads.

“Obviously we’ll be heavily marked by the other teams and it’s not going to be an easy task, but we are confident and know that a big result is well within the capabilities of Tadej and the team,” added Fernandez.

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