Tadej Pogačar defended his title at the Tour of Slovenia, coming in first place overall. His UAE Team Emirates teammate Rafal Majka came in second, while Domen Novak of Bahrain-Victorious rounded out the podium in third. Pogačar also won the final stage into Novo Mesto.
Pogačar beat Matej Mohorič in a match sprint after Mohorič, Majka, and Pogačar escaped with ten kilometers to go Sunday. "I feel great," Pogačar told VeloNews. "It was an amazing week, amazing race, and yeah, brilliant teamwork, brilliant stages and atmosphere."
A flashback to Tadej Pogačar at the 2021 Tour de France.
The various Tour de France warm-up races offer favorites and teams a chance to work together, test themselves, sharpen their cohesion, and hopefully get some confidence-building standing ovations under their belts before opening night. The UAE Team Emirates wasn’t the only WorldTeam at the Tour of Slovenia – not the hardest pre-Tour warm-up race – but while BikeExchange-Jayco was out on a quest for stage wins and Bahrain Victorious hoped to show off their extensive Slovenian talent, Pogačar and his teammates were focused on making winning look easy.
While other teams used the Tour of Slovenia as an opportunity to rack up stage wins or impress with local talent, Pogačar's team was singularly focused on making victory look effortless. As one of several WorldTeams competing in what is considered a relatively low-difficulty training race leading up to the main event, UAE Team Emirates' performance hinted that they may be ones to watch during this year's Tour de France. Later posting to social media, "Here’s what we do: win; and how we do it: together."
UAE Team Emirates had an impressive showing with four stage wins over five days of tough racing in the heat. Two of those wins were courtesy of Tadej Pogačar, while Pascal Ackermann snagged third place on stage 2. Rafał Majka took home the KOM jersey as well as second place overall, and Tadej Pogačar also won the points jersey and first prize in the general classification.
Teamwork Behind the Success
Although Tadej Pogačar has won two stages, UAE Team Emirates is approaching their leader's home race not as a one-man lap of honor but as a team-building exercise. Rafał Majka was alongside Pogačar for both stage wins: a few lengths behind on stage 1 and literally arm in arm on stage 4.
Jumbo-Visma's success in achieving many of the goals set for a Grand Tour squad (despite the absence of Mikkel Bjerg and Vegard Stake Laengen, who both tested positive for Covid-19) echoes the work of UAE Team Emirates. Despite missing two key riders, UAE Team Emirates was still able to achieve most of its goals for a Grand Tour squad. This is due to the team's dedication and hard work.
Although Pogačar has had less team support than some of his rivals in the past, he has still done well. His early successes were more or less solo efforts, but UAE Team Emirates built him a better support system for his successful title defense last season by signing multiple Tour stage-winner and twice King of the Mountains Rafał Majka. They appear to have taken another step up this year.
Le Tour Prospects
The clear favorite to win the Tour de France according to his main rivals is Jumbo-Visma's Tadej Pogačar. They acknowledge that it will be difficult to beat him head-to-head on the last climb. The strength of Jumbo-Visma lies in its team rather than in any one rider, a fact demonstrated when it won four stage races last year despite Primož Roglič crashing out early on in the Tour.
Pogačar's biggest challenge will be Jumbo-Visma's deep bench of strong riders, but he is more than capable of beating them. With a strong team behind him, Pogačar may have what it takes to win the Tour de France and defend his two consecutive titles.
Tadej Pogačar is one of the best cyclists in the world. He has won almost every race he has entered, including the Tour de France, the U23 World Championships for both road race and time trial, and the 2020 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. His competitors are starting to get frustrated because no matter what they do, they can't seem to keep up with him.