Dubai: Tadej Pogacar, the main protagonist of UAE Team Emirates’ challenge in the 2020 Tour de France, is hopeful that he will be in a position to dig in even deeper and give it everything while heading into the final six days of the race.
On Sunday, the UAE Team Emirates’ rider claimed his second stage victory of the Tour de France and the third for the UAE-based squad while beating General Classification leader Primoz Roglic of Jumbo-Visma atop Grand Colombier.
Pogacar took the victory and, along with it, valuable bonus seconds on the line just ahead of fellow Slovenian Roglic cutting the deficit to 40 seconds in the General Classification. The youngster once again showed his class by timing his sprint to perfection with a dash for the line inside the final 100m but wasn’t able to shake Roglic who stayed on his wheel till the end.
“We will see where we are as we head into Paris next Sunday. Anything can happen to any of the riders from now on. If I am still there then I am there with a mission of giving off my best for the sake of the team. They (Jumbo-Visma) are the strongest team this year and we are strong as well. I will be there to take the opportunities that come my way. If we can take some time, then we will so that we are in a better position and fighting all the way heading into Paris,” Pogacar told Gulf News in an exclusive interview on Monday.
Both hailing from Slovenia, Roglic and Pogacar enjoy a good relationship but that is not something that matters to the 21-year-old at the moment. “I have an older brother and Primoz is my friend. But once you are on the bike, then nothing really matters except winning. Everyone is there to win. This is the world of cycling,” he explained.
“When we are on the road, I look up to him [Primoz] as he is a really strong guy and there are things that I can learn from him,” he admitted.
Norwegian Alexander Kristoff had given the UAE Team Emirates the right start while winning the opening stage in Nice on August 29. Pogacar carried forward the good work winning Stage 9 at Laruns on September 6 before Sunday’s triumph on Stage 13.
“The next few days, I am thinking will be super hard. We had done a good recon of one or two stages. On a good day we can take a few seconds off the leader, and on a bad day we can easily lose up to even half an hour perhaps,” Pogacar pointed out.
Monday was the second rest day before the riders set off on a final battle for the yellow jersey with the 16th stage on Tuesday. Known as La Tour du Pin-Villard de Lans, the 164 km stage has the ascents of the Cote de Virieu (fourth category), of the Col de Gates (second category), the Cote de Revel (second category), the Montée de Saint Nizier du Moucherotte (first category) and the final climb of the Cote 2000 (third category).
For me, the hardest part was enduring the stress levels throughout the race. It’s much higher than at the Vuelta. The pace is much faster on the flats and the intensity is higher on the climbs. So there is no time to ease away as such
“For me, the hardest part was enduring the stress levels throughout the race. It’s much higher than at the Vuelta. The pace is much faster on the flats and the intensity is higher on the climbs. So there is no time to ease away as such,” Pogacar recounted.
“But that said, I always felt that I was ready for this year after my form in the Vuelta last year. And then came the stage win [on September 6] and that kept me going. And then of course yesterday [Sunday] was another fine day. My experience with the team and my performance have been super good so far, and now it is time to focus on the last few days of the race,” he stressed.
“I didn’t expect to be where I was. I was confident in myself at the start, but not at this sort of level. It was little bit hard to believe and I will be giving it all. We lost two strong guys on this tour, and it would have been lot better if we could have had them till the end. The team is ready to give everything for the fight, and so am I,” he vouched.
Come Tuesday, Pogacar will continue in the White Jersey as the UAE Team Emirates team leader now boasts of a 2.35 minutes lead over Movistar’s Enric Mas.
Stage 15 Results
1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 4:34:13; 2. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) s.t.; 3. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) @ 5”.
General Classification after Stage 15: 1. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 65:37:07; 2. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) @ 40”; 3. Rigoberto Uran (Ef) @ 1’34”