Dubai: Young Slovenian rider Tadej Pogacar is all geared up to lead the UAE Team Emirates charge at the Criterium du Dauphine that gets under way on Wednesday.
Held over five stages, the Criterium du Dauphine has been traditionally the last big stage race ahead of the Tour de France, where riders look to test their form and asses their opposition.
This year’s 72nd edition - which finishes two weeks before the Tour de France - has been reduced from eight to five days, but still packs a punch with three mountain, one medium mountain and one hilly stage squeezed into 795kms of testing terrain.
“I am coming into the Dauphine with some good race miles after my first time at Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo. Both races were really unique and an amazing experience. I was happy with my condition also,” Pogacar said.
“Some of the stages here at the Dauphiné could suit me, but the principal aim is building up for the Tour de France. Formolo is also really going well at the moment so we will try to do something between us here,” he added.
Pogacar, who will turn 22 in September, has been chosen to lead a seven-man squad with support in the high ground from Davide Formolo, David de la Cruz and fellow Slovenian, Jan Polanc.
With 27 climbs, and challenging uphill finishes at the end of each stage, this is a tour that will favour Pogacar’s characteristics and riding style. The Norwegian trio of Vegard Stake Laengen, Sven Erik Bystrom and Alexander Kristoff will round out the team for this week.
The team will be guided by an experienced group of Sports Directors including Allan Peiper, Andrej Hauptaman and John Wakefield.
In 2019, Pogacar extended his contract with UAE Team Emirates at least until the end of the 2023 season. In August 2019, he was put on the startlist for the 2019 Vuelta a Espana where he went on to win two stages in the second week of the Vuelta and was in a high overall position going into the final week.
However, in the final week Nairo Quintana and Miguel Angel Lopez rode well and in the process jumped him in the standings, knocking him off the podium. Then he took his third stage win in a 40km solo breakaway on the penultimate stage and gained enough time over his opponents to take over the Young Rider Jersey and climb back into the final podium position before the last stage in Madrid.
Pogacar is lined up to be on the start list for the 2020 Tour de France and has said he will go into the race with the same mindset he had going into the 2019 Vuelta.