Be afraid, Tadej Pogačar is coming to Strade Bianche to 'have fun in the chaos'

Slovenian remains committed to the Tour de France, even with the Giro d'Italia on his schedule

Clock15:59, Friday 1st March 2024
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)

© Getty Images

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) will make his long-awaited season debut at Strade Bianche this weekend and the former winner is excited to be back in action after a winter of training.

In interviews with both La Gazzetta dello Sport and Eurosport, the 25-year-old spoke about his return to action and his plans for the months ahead.

Pogačar hasn’t raced since winning Il Lombardia last autumn but notoriously starts his season with a bang. In 2023 he won Jaén Paraiso Interior on his first outing before claiming Ruta del Sol, and Paris-Nice, where he crushed Jonas Vingegaard in the process. 

Read more: Preview: Strade Bianche Men 2024

Twelve months previously, he wiped the floor with the opposition at the UAE Tour before winning Strade Bianche with an incredible long-distance solo move. In fact, he’s not finished off the top step of the podium in his first race since he turned pro in 2019.

That pattern could stretch on for another year, with La Gazzetta dello Sport making the Slovenian the only five-star rider on their prediction chart.

“Everyone is talking about a late debut but it's not that late since we're still in winter and it seems to be chilly! I wanted to train a little more,” he told the Italian publication.

“In the last few days, to tell the truth, I began to feel a strong desire to compete inside me. To have fun. I'm really motivated.”

Pogačar missed Strade Bianche in 2023 as he focused on Paris-Nice but he’s a natural on the gravel sectors, and the fact that more dirt roads have been added and the race distance increased to over 200km only strengthens the rider’s hand. What’s more, he has a strong bond with the race and the style of racing the parcours demands.

He has raced Strade Bianche on four previous occasions, each time climbing up the results sheet before his win in 2022.

“I loved it from that first time. It's a kind of chaos. Each year I saw my progress until I was able to win it in 2022,” he told Eurosport.

"It makes me feel like a kid again, especially when we race hard on the climbs. I also love Tuscany. It's a pity not to have ever been here on holiday but that's a goal for the future.”

Read more: 10 riders to watch at Strade Bianche

The main focus for Pogačar this season will be the Grand Tours, with the two-time Tour winner targeting the Giro d’Italia for the first time this year. He will then double down on three-week racing with another assault on the Tour de France, where he will lock horns with Vingegaard once again. 

“It's a different approach this year. I start a little later than usual, but not too late either. It has still been quite busy with preparations and explorations. I have two Grand Tours to think about, so I have plenty to do,” he said.

“Normally, I like to do some races beforehand, but if you simulate a certain race during training, you can be very well prepared at the start of your first race. There are quite a few riders for whom the Strade is the first race of the year.”

The addition of the Giro d’Italia does alter Pogačar's programme and some have questioned whether he can arrive at the Tour in optimal condition given the strain he will put himself under during a Giro tilt in May. For the rider, the Tour remains a major goal.

Read more: Tadej Pogačar: I never thought about skipping the Tour de France

“I'm not going to give up the Tour because of that,” he added. “First of all, I want to ride a strong Giro and I must then also be able to compete in the Tour at a high level. The Olympic Games are a one-day competition. I'm not going to change my calendar for that. So the goals are Giro, Tour and the World Championships. The Vuelta? I'm not thinking about that yet.”

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