One day after his birthday, the Slovenian shone at the triumphal entry into the capital and was crowned the second youngest winner in the history of the most traditional road event.
Slovenian sport has added a new name to the list of illustrious representatives of the country who conquer stages on a world scale. The last to join is Tadej Pogacar, the new champion of the Tour de France, one day after turning 22. The new king of the most important road event in cycling combines the two qualities of his last two star compatriots: the youth of Luka Doncic and the pedaling of Primoz Roglic.
Pogacar is the second youngest champion of the Tour, after Henri Cornet (19 years old in 1904, the second edition of the race) and the second to wear all three jerseys (the yellow as the leader, the white as the best youngster and the polka dot as the best climber), after the Belgian Eddy Merckx in 1969. A historic winner by all accounts.
Heavenly lakes and postcard-worthy mountain landscapes characterize Slovenia as an ideal country for practicing “winter” sports. Of the 52 editions that the Sportsman of the Year award has been awarded in that territory, on 21 occasions it was won by skiers, mountaineers and ice hockey players. The female award, meanwhile, was also 21 times in the hands of one of those disciplines.
However, their small 20,000 square kilometers of surface also make these spaces, in times of greater climate bonanza, ideal places for cycling. And in the last 25 years, the activity has developed more seriousness, coinciding with the entry of the Slovenian Cycling Federation to the International Union and the launch of the Tour of Slovenia, the most important competition in the country.
With more skills and more opportunities, naturally talents began to emerge, also helped by its proximity to northern Italy, a country with a long tradition in the discipline that was able to attract several of the best Slovenian cyclists and offer them in their teams the possibility of approaching the highest level.
There were also those who paved the way for young people like Pogacar. His loser of this Tour de France, Roglic (31 years old), is logically one of the mirrors that the kid had.
Unlike Primoz, who had a late explosion and even entered his young adulthood practiced ski jumping, Tadej -covered precisely by the joint exposed lines above- he got on the bike from a very young age. More precisely at 9 years old, when his body was not big enough to practice sports and he wanted to do it the same, at all costs.
At 12, Tamau Pogi (“Little Pogi”, in Slovenian) he was still 10 or 15 centimeters shorter than the boys his age and it was very difficult for him to compete against them. The accumulated frustrations did not stop him from trying.
It soon became a Young Wonder (nickname that is will steal, according to this article, the aforementioned Luka Doncic) of the two wheels. In 2016 he was still running as a junior, but he was already making a name for himself by winning in Italy the Tour of the Lunigiana, one of the most important events for young people in the world. That year he was also bronze in the junior European championship.
It was enough for the Rog-Ljubljana team to turn it professional the following season and for it to finish fifth on September 18 at Tour of Eslovenia, being the winner of the youth classification.
He then demonstrated a versatility that made him look like a real threat: he won the national cyclocross championship at the same time that he was consecrated as Sub 23 on the road and time trial and won the Tour de l’Avenir (“Tour of the Future”), the equivalentA version B of the Tour de France, a race that the Colombian Egan Bernal, the Spanish Miguel Indurain or the american Greg LeMond, to name just three subsequent champions of the Large Buckle.
Such performances led Spanish Joxean Matxin, director of the UAE Emirates team for which Argentine Maximiliano Richeze also competes, to sign Pogacar. “Is a puto crack, perfection made a cyclist “has been defined more than once by the executive of one of the top teams on the World Tour.
In the top category of world cycling, the kid made his debut just last year and from the beginning he abandoned the half measures: he obtained the California Tower to become the youngest in history to win a competition for the circuit’s staff and conquered three stages of the Back to Spain to finish third in the general classification.
In the current year he was 4th in the Critérium du Dauphiné, he won the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and now he had reached the Tour de France as the main figure of the UAE Team, although without pressure to win.
For the tranquility of feeling liberated or for any reason, Pogacar attacked and attacked. Miha Koncilja, his first coach and who is convinced that those difficulties he faced from pibito shaped his overwhelming attitude, he assured the AFP agency that his former pupil “is not afraid of anything or anyone.”
During the Tour, Tadej repeated that the fight for the shirt yellow was not over. Said and done, he put it on in the time trial on Saturday, before Sunday’s ride to Paris.