"In this Giro, you saw that there is a big difference" - Gap between 'best' and 'the rest' clearer than ever believes Joxean Matxin

Tadej Pogacar was far and away the dominant force at the 2024 Giro d'Italia, taking victory by almost ten minutes by the time the race reached Rome. After Team Visma | Lease a Bike boss Richard Plugge recently played down the Slovenian's dominance, UAE Team Emirates boss Joxean Matxin has now responded.

“I’m absolutely in agreement with him, because in cycling today, you have a Big Six of riders – Jonas Vingegaard, Primoz Roglic, Tadej Pogacar and Remco Evenepoel, as well as Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert – who are on another level," Matxin explains in conversation with Cycling News, referencing the vast gap between the Maglia Rosa and the rest of his general classification challengers over the last three weeks. "in this Giro, you saw that there is a big difference between a race when they’re present and when they’re not. Tadej is very strong and in great condition, but at the Tour de France, it will be a different kind of competition to the Giro.”

Given the superior level of Pogacar in relation to his rivals at the Giro, Matxin was keen to impress the importance upon his rider to conserve energy with the upcoming Tour de France in mind. “When we made the plan for the Giro, we obviously had to have an eye to the Tour too, even if we had to have full concentration on this race from the moment it started, out of respect for our rivals and for the sport,” Matxin explains. “We wanted Tadej to win as well as he could, but with no exaggeration, no attacking from distance, always keeping one eye on the Tour de France. With that in mind, we had a team to help bring him close to the finish – he couldn’t go and race every day like he did at Strade Bianche, attacking with 80km to go, for three weeks straight.”

Given the Tour de France is now a month away, Pogacar also won't have much time to relax and enjoy his Giro victory. “First up, he’ll have seven days of total rest, and then he’ll go to altitude next Monday, to Isola 2000, for exactly 19 days,” Matxin says of Pogacar's coming weeks. “There are five weeks between the Giro and Tour this year, and that’s important, because it allows time both to recover and to train before the Tour. We realised Tadej would need a week of rest and then a minimum of three weeks of training before the Tour, as well as some time at home before the race begins.”

The likes of Alberto Contador, Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin has all tried a Giro/Tour double in recent years but been unsuccessful. Pogacar however, is now surely best placed to be the first man since Marco Pantani in 1998 to do the feat. “We did study other double attempts, but it’s also clear that the circumstances were totally different,” Matxin analyses. “He’ll go to the Tour with 31 days of racing in his legs, which has always been our plan. Our idea was to limit Tadej’s racing before the Giro, so he came in here with ten days of competition, and we’ve added 21 days more here. Some of his rivals for the Tour will have something similar in their legs.

The strength of UAE Team Emirates' Tour de France lineup also benefits Pogacar as he has support from the likes of Joao Almeida, Juan Ayuso, Adam Yates and Pavel Sivakov among others. “We never considered having other riders on the team do the Giro and Tour, only Tadej,” Matxin concludes. “That’s because Tadej is special. He has immense quality, and he also has great powers of recovery. We weren’t going to ask the same thing of the other riders. The guys on the Giro can focus on the Giro, and the guys on the Tour can focus on the Tour. This is a custom calendar for Tadej, and it’s a custom preparation for Tadej too.”

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