Pogacar can win Tour de France again: UAE Team Emirates CEO - GulfToday

Pogacar can win Tour de France again: UAE Team Emirates CEO


UAE Team Emirates riders with Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar (right) during a training ride on Thursday. Agence France-Presse

Defending champion Tadej Pogacar can win the Tour de France again in 2021, his UAE Emirates team CEO Mauro Gianetti said on Thursday.

The 2020 champion Slovenia’s Pogacar and his UAE Emirates teammates begin the defence of the Tour de France in Brest on Saturday and Gianetti was excited about the race.

When asked if his champion the boyish Pogacar (still just 22) was ready for the defence of his title even if he is now the man to beat the team director was coy on the matter.

“He’s fine, they’re all fine,” Gianetti said of the team that were marching smartly, but in a relaxed manner, into the Tour de France Covid testing centre.

“We are not worried about the Covid tests, but about the race,” Gianetti smiled before suggesting British rivals Ineos were the most likely to win.

“Ineos is going to be the favourite as they always are and they have a very strong team again this year,” he said.

Ineos will be led by the 2018 champion Geraint Thomas, but he is backed up by Richie Porte, Richard Carapaz and Tao Geoghegan Hart, none of whom can be discounted.

Gianetti was, however, sure in himself when he said Pogacar could repeat his feat.

“We won it last year and we are going to try and win it again,” he insisted.

“This is going to be a high level Tour,” the 57-year-old said.

The 21 day race embarks from Brest on Saturday and opens with four tricky days in Brittany’s windswept terrain.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he said, raising his eyebrows at the prospect of the first few days.

“We are a bit stressed waiting for it to start, but really we can’t wait.”

Pogacar won the 2020 race by overhauling his nerve-wracked countryman Primoz Roglic on the penultimate day time-trial, a twist in the tale that provided a great underdog win.

On Thursday, Roglic’s sports director Merijn Zeeman said Jumbo would play the 2021 Tour differently after his charges dominated the peloton, but paid a heavy price for racking up stage wins instead of comforting the leader’s advantage.

“We showed last year what a strong team we are, but we all know what actually happened in the end,” he said of the gut-wrenching defeat.

“We shall try out some different tactics at certain parts of the race.”

Roglic has been in training away from races since April.

“I have been doing altitude training and of course, practising on my time-trials,” said the 31-year-old Roglic.

Earlier, on the 2020 Tour the defending champion Egan Bernal had pulled out midway through the race as the cards stacked up alarmingly against the Colombian.

Meanwhile, UAE Team Emirates unveiled the team heading into the Tour de France June26-July18 to start the Grand Boucles which begins from the city of Brest.

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

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 eight riders:

Pogačar said: “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.”

Fernandez said: “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 also 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.”

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