Tadej Pogacar is a rider that fits all. The Slovenian has been on a terrific run of success throughout the spring classics, winning in Flèche Wallone his third in a row. At the time being he looks almost unbeatable, but at Liège-Bastogne-Liège he will have a difficult challenge. He discusses his chances and his future in Paris-Roubaix.
“Last year in the Flèche Wallone, for example, I had a similar shape as now. I didn't even finish in the top ten that year. That shows how much you have to pay for small mistakes on this climb," Pogacar told a group of reporters following the finale of Flèche Wallone. “One wrong move and your legs can fill up in one go. When you get to the steep part and are already full of lactate there, you really don't squeeze out a sprint in the last hundred meters. You have to find yourself in a good position so that you can accelerate left or right. The only advice I can give for the Mur de Huy is to save as much strength as possible for the steepest part around the chicane.”
However UAE Team Emirates raced very strongly, with George Bennett, Diego Ulissi and Marc Hirschi covering attacks, setting a high pace and positioning him into the final climb in ideal conditions - after the team worked throughout most of the day. Pogacar was at the lead of the peloton when the Mur de Huy got steep, and from there on he was able to make the difference.
“I think our team rode the perfect race. The guys did a great job. Yes, perhaps unexpected that we could exercise such control. It was so good, so great," he appreciates. "Really dedicated work from everyone and that gave me a huge boost and a lot of motivation to go for the win. I owe a lot to my teammates today.”
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He was the man to beat in the race despite his lack of a top performance in the past, but in a race that ends in a sprint each year this status did not harm his chances. “No, I think that role has helped me on this course rather than disadvantaged me. I think the rest of the guys in the pack have been looking at my back. That gave us a little more room to move freely at the front of the group and get into a good position," he explains. "So I think it was good to be one of the main contenders today.”
Now after winnning Flèche and Amstel Gold Race, he has the chance to match Davide Rebellin and Philippe Gilbert in the historic feat of winning all three Ardennes classics in the same year. “I don't know the statistics very well. I'm just doing my thing. It would be great to win all three. Liège is the most important of these three classics on Sunday," the Slovenian continues. "It will be difficult to win this monument. Although we will certainly race for profit. The team is super motivated and everyone is super strong.”
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“Last year I had great legs in the Tour of Flanders, but still I only finished fourth. This year I tried to do everything perfectly and I was careful to be well in front in the essential places. Although I must also say that I was very lucky for six and a half hours in that I was never knocked backwards by bad luck. This year everything is going well in Flanders, the Amstel and now here in the Flèche Wallone. I can be grateful for that.”
A two-time winner of La Doyenne, Pogacar knows what to do to take the victory. His climbing abilities are currently almost unmatched, but in a group finale his sprint could also prove victorious. He virtually has no weak spot at the time being, and defending champion Remco Evenepoel is being termed as his main goal and only rider who on a normal day can realistically beat him.
As he thrives in the one-day races and becomes a possible winner of all five monuments, a debut in Paris-Roubaix seems like a matter of time. He was asked regarding it once again, responding: “I think I have to ride Paris-Roubaix someday. Just for fun and to give it a try. But for now I will continue to focus on the competitions where I have proven that I can handle it well.”