Tadej Pogačar has confirmed that his ambition is to compete at the Giro d’Italia, and Tour de France in 2024, squeezing both into a season which is also expected to include an Olympic Games and World Championships start.
In a round-table interview at the UAE Team Emirates training camp on Monday, Pogačar said that it has always been a dream to compete at the Italian Grand Tour and now he feels the time is right to take on two Grand Tours in a year for the first time, which will enable him to debut at the race in May.
“I always wanted to do the Giro. It’s one of my favourite races because it’s close to Slovenia and as a kid we really love to watch the Giro and go to the stages. I have some of my nicest memories from the Giro, when Luka Mezgec won a stage in Trieste [stage 21, 2014 – ed]. I was there, and it was an unforgettable moment,” Pogačar said.
“It was always a dream to be [at the Giro]. Then come to UAE, first race to do the Vuelta and [then] to the Tour and it was such a success that it was never really time for the Giro. I’m not so young anymore, and I think I can do two Grand Tours. I probably could have before, but it’s a nice time to have a new challenge in my career.”
On Sunday, Giro d’Italia organisers RCS Sport had already confirmed that Pogačar would make his debut at the Italian Grand Tour. Pogačar previously expressed his desire to take on the race, which runs from May 4-26, but also stated a main season goal of racing at the Tour de France, which is June 29-July 21. The Giro-Tour winning double hasn’t been achieved since Marco Pantani in 1998.
“Everybody wants to do the double, and it’s one of the hardest things to win, to achieve. I think the main goal for all the GC riders who have already won a Grand Tour is to have all three of them,” Pogačar said.
“This is something to have in a palmares. Let’s see first how it goes with the Giro, and then the Tour. Let’s not think about the double, but just let’s go to enjoy some long racing.”
Asked if his goal was to win the Giro d’Italia for the first time or to win the Tour de France for a third time, Pogačar said he placed a higher priority on the UCI Road World Championships held in Zurich in September.
“World Championships, also Olympics is a good goal, but it’s not set in stone. It’s not a perfect parcours for me, but you never know. It’s going to be a really hard race because there are not big teams in the Olympics so it can be almost like gambling, no? If you’re in good shape there, you can win, or you can DNF. The Olympics are a bit so-so, but for sure, the World Championships is one of the big goals next year.”
With a focus on the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, Pogačar said he will skip the Tour of Flanders, a race he won in 2023. He hopes to be able to watch the race live on television.
“I will enjoy it. I hope I don’t have a long training ride that day so that I can watch almost all of the race on TV. I will see the race a bit differently from the TV. I think, on that day, I will miss the racing, but on the other hand, it’s a good choice not to do it for one year.”
Pogačar said racing the Giro d’Italia means that he will have a different type of preparation ahead of the Tour de France, but said he believes there is enough time to recover between the two events.
He said that while he has always wanted to compete at the Giro d’Italia, it hasn’t worked out until now, but the team also expressed an interest in continuing the evolution of Pogačar’s programme.
“Not to repeat the same races every year, to change a little bit the schedule, life … to make new challenges. If you do the same story every year for my body, it would not be good. I think they saw this in the team, and when I proposed this to them, they immediately said ‘yes’.”
Pogačar also said that his shape has consistently been better in the spring and that he performs better in the cooler temperatures. He also said he plans to arrive at the Giro d’Italia with the right balance and shape for a Grand Tour.
“It’s not nice in the Giro if there are 20 days of rain, so let’s hope for good weather so that we don’t suffer too much,” he said. “With the bigger races, you prepare a little bit differently, but it is always full-gas training.”
UAE Team Emirates’ tentative roster for the Giro would also include Rafal Majka, Mikkel Bjerg, Felix Großschartner, Juan Sebastian Molano, Rui Oliveira, Jay Vine and Domen Novak.
Tour de France is always important to me
Pogačar said the UAE Team Emirates team tentatively scheduled for the Tour de France will once again be strong enough to support his goal of winning a third title. The team will likely also include João Almeida, Adam Yates, Juan Ayuso, Pavel Sivakov, Marc Soler, Nils Politt and Tim Wellens.
“It’s still far away, a lot of things can happen. One thing is for sure: we will have a strong team. I don’t think it changes too much who the name is because, in this team, everybody who goes to the Tour is good for that goal. We always have a strong team.”
Pogačar said that, even with his desire to take on the Giro d’Italia, skipping the Tour de France this year was not something he had ever considered and that it’s always been a focus for himself and the team.
“I never thought about it because I know how important the Tour is to the team and also important for me. I think if you just do the Giro, you have basically only the end of the season left, and it’s hard to prepare for those races without racing in the summer.”
He said that skipping the Tour, however, could be a possibility later in his career. “I see myself skipping the Tour, cycling is not just about the Tour de France. Yes, it’s the biggest race in the world, but there are a lot of fun things to do in cycling. For sure, one year, there will be a moment when I don’t do the Tour de France,” Pogačar said.
Along with building new racing experiences and a new calendar, Pogačar said he is continually looking for ways to improve himself as an athlete.
“Training, experience, and learning new stuff, developing my body, growing older. But slowly progression is stopping, as a body, but there is always improvement in the head and other aspects,” he said.
“All things a little bit more, not just one thing to focus on too much. Maybe the time trial is still some days good, some days not so good. I need to work on this, but sometimes, you reach your level and can’t go further. I try to improve the little things.”
Pogačar said the timing and route design for the 2024 Giro d’Italia helped solidify his decision to compete in the event.
“You have to know yourself, there is a gap where you can rest and go to altitude training with the guys if you have good condition and finish a good Giro, you don’t need to train that much, but keep that base from the Giro, so you don’t start from zero [for the Tour],” Pogačar said, adding that while the intensity of his spring campaign might change, he is still lining up at his select races with the intent to win.
“That’s hard to change for me, to not care about the performance and go there for training. I can do that better at home then, that’s why the program is a bit different and less intense, so I can try to be good in the races.”
He said that racing the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France is also a chance to see what he is capable of.
“I know myself well now, if nothing goes wrong in my head, I can do all three Grand Tours if I want. To race, 100% mentally focussed, is a little bit different. You don’t know until you try. This is a good year to do 100% in Giro and 100% in Tour. I think it can be super good, or it can be just not so good.”
Pogačar also said success did not necessarily have to be defined as winning yellow in July.
“To be there, to be in the fight. In the end, for example, for me and Jonas Vingegaard to fight at the same level, and you never know what can happen.
“We can define success after the race.”
Rainbow jersey and Olympic gold
Pogačar will aim to come into the Olympic Games and the World Championships with top form. However, he said it would be hard to top his bronze-medal performance at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“The gold medal is a pretty huge thing. I think even just a medal is a big deal, but I already have a bronze from the road race, and it’s hard to repeat that or be even better, especially that kind of parcours, small teams,” he said.
“It’s totally different racing. We say it’s like the national championships but 100km longer. Anything can happen. It could be one of the hardest races ever or just mental suffering and physical suffering to the finish because there are not so many riders.”
Pogačar said he prefers racing Monuments and one-day races over Grand Tours for enjoyment and that the Glasgow Worlds, won by Mathieu van der Poel, was one of the toughest races.
“The shorter period of time gives you a bigger boost of adrenaline. There are different types of hard: You can be freezing cold or boiling hot, or it’s based on performance, but this year, the Glasgow Worlds was up there as the hardest race.”
Pogačar’s new season will begin at Strade Bianche in March.