UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogacar wearing the Tour de France leader's yellow jersey in the Alps
UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogacar wearing the Tour de France leader's yellow jersey in the Alps Image Credit: AFP

UAE Team Emirates cycling star Matteo Trentin missed out on watching teammate Tadej Pogacar’s blockbusting time-trial on Saturday, but he was one of the first to offer his congratulations to the Slovenian youngster, who has taken a commanding lead in his quest to defend the Tour de France crown he won last year.

Trentin is currently in Livorno in Italy, getting in some high-altitude training ahead of the rest of an arduous cycling season, while his UAE Team Emirates teammates take on the Alps in France. The Italian is thrilled at the way things have unfolded after the first week of the most famous cycling race in the world.

“I missed the time trial on Saturday as I have been out training myself, but I saw the result and was a wonderful shift from Tadej,” Trentin said in an exclusive chat with Gulf News.

Pogacar consolidated his position on Sunday in the rain-soaked second day in the Alps as a crash-filled opening week took its toll on rivals.

Both last year’s runner-up Primoz Roglic and former overall leader Mathieu van der Poel dropped out of the race before the gruelling 144.9km trek in the French mountains from Cluses to Tignes.

Pogacar now has a lead of over two minutes in the yellow jersey and he looks very much the man to beat.

“The way Tadej is looking it will be a really tough ask from the other guys to get near him,” said Trentin. “With Roglic going out, you know how tough this race really is. There have been so many nasty crashes already and we are only one week in. Tadej himself had a fall but thankfully he is OK and looking in great shape.

“However, as I say, this is a three-week race, not one week and there is a long way to go. I crashed myself a few weeks back and we all know the dangers. Hopefully Tadej can steer clear of more trouble and bring the title back home once again.”

Matteo Trentin

Trentin also hailed the team spirit in the UAE ranks. “The unity is there for all to see,” he said. “We saw on Sunday how the team pulled together to protect Tadej and his lead. There were many attacks and ambushes from the other teams, but they all held firm together.

“There was attack after attack but no cracks from the UAE boys.”

Trentin also kept cautious as well as confident of another famous triumph.

“Tadej hasn’t won until he reaches Paris but I am sure the boys will all have their feet on the ground and keep defending that yellow jersey lead,” he said.

Trentin has a busy schedule ahead of him this year as a jammed calendar looms.

“I come back to action on July 29 for the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon in Spain and we will all be busy as the COVID-19 lockdown means there has been a backlog of one-day events. Hopefully Tadej has given us all a lift and I will be back in the winner’s circle soon. I have been close and I want that winning mood back again.”