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UAE Team Emirates' rider Tadej Pogacar celebrates as he crosses the finish line during the 'La Fleche Wallonne' cycling race in April. Image Credit: AFP

London: Tadej Pogacar remains confident about his fitness before next month’s Tour de France following a wrist injury that has kept him out of competition for almost two months as he returns to action at the Slovenian National Championships on Thursday.

Pogacar, 24, earned an impressive run of victories at the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race and La Fleche Wallonne and was the overwhelming favourite to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April but crashed out of that race and fractured his wrist.

The two-time Tour winner had planned a four-week break from competitive racing after Liege-Bastogne-Liege and although his preparations were thrown into disarray he remains optimistic about his chances of bidding for a third title.

Perfect time

“You could say it happened at a perfect time,” Pogacar told a UAE-based newspaper. “Naturally I didn’t want it to happen like that, but I was due a long break and I guess the injury just forced me to rest a bit more.

“I was back on the indoor trainer a week after the crash. That way I could hold my fitness a bit and I also was doing rehab on the wrist and some running, core work, etc.

“I’ve already been back on the road for a few weeks now and feeling pretty good. It shouldn’t hinder me too much for the tour,” he added in the interview published on Thursday.

'pretty excited'

Having opted to miss his usual tune-up at the Tour of Slovenia, Pogacar will head into the July 1-23 Tour de France with just two days of racing at the Slovenian National Championships, which begins with the time trial on Thursday.

Pogacar, who won the Tour in 2020 and 2021, narrowly missed out on a third successive title after being beaten by Dane Jonas Vingegaard last year.

“(I’m) pretty excited. It’s been an unconventional preparation with the wrist injury, but it’s been really good overall,” Pogacar said. “It’s intense preparation but that’s what it takes. I’m enjoying the process.

“We have a great team and understand each other well. There will also be strong competitors so it won’t be straightforward, but we’ll give it a good crack.”