I would rate the Tour de France route a 9/10, says Tadej Pogačar

Two-time champion welcomes Primož Roglič's move to Bora-Hansgrohe, but thinks gravel may lead to defensive racing

Clock08:35, Saturday 28th October 2023
Tadej Pogačar spoke to GCN in Singapore, shortly before winning a three-up team challenge alongside Giulio Ciccone and Jasper Philipsen

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Tadej Pogačar spoke to GCN in Singapore, shortly before winning a three-up team challenge alongside Giulio Ciccone and Jasper Philipsen

Responding to Jonas Vingegaard's (Jumbo-Visma) assessment of the 2024 Tour de France route as an 8/10, UAE Team Emirates' leader Tadej Pogačar has gone one better than his Danish rival and adjudicated the parcours a 9/10 rating upon reflection.

"Every year it is more or less the same, you start and it is hard," Pogačar told GCN on the ground at the Tour de France Prudential Singapore Criterium. "Every year you have more or less the same distance of climbing, the same time trials.

"But I would rate it 9/10 maybe, because it also finishes where I train every day."

Indeed, the 2024 Tour de France finishes away from Paris for the first time in the race's history, with the Paris Olympics proving too grandiose an event for the ASO to organise around. Instead, the race will head to Nice, a popular hunting ground for those riders who live in the south of France and Monaco.

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Doing away with the usual processional finish in Paris, next year's race will culminate with a 35.2km individual time trial, which Pogačar has welcomed as a positive inclusion in the race.

"I like it," he admitted. "I think it just adds one more day where you have to be 100% and really good. You need to have one of your best days on the last day, so for sure it is going to play a big factor."

Pogačar predicts that gravel stage will lead to defensive racing

Before the final-day showdown, the GC contenders in France will have to safely manoeuvre through the gravel roads that define the afternoon on stage 9. Beginning and ending in Troyes, the ASO have taken inspiration from the inaugural edition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift and tasked the riders with 14 sectors of white roads.

The inclusion of the gravel roads is one of the factors that led the two-time Tour de France champion to conclude that the route for next year is "interesting, diverse and fun," but he doesn't necessarily think the gravel will lead to aggressive racing.

"I think in the Tour everyone is going to be more careful, more cautious and act differently than a one-day race like Strade [Bianche], where you go all in and do not care about the next day," Pogačar noted.

"I think it is going to be more easier racing, it is true gravel and I think it will be more [defensive racing]. It will be like the Roubaix stage which is more defensive riding than attacking."

The gravel has unsurprisingly caused irk amongst some riders and staff, with Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) and Richard Plugge (Jumbo-Visma team boss) quick to question the necessity of including this unpredictable terrain in a Grand Tour.

However, when asked by the media in Singapore whether he minded the gravel being included in the route, Pogačar was more open-minded and cut a jovial figure, rather than a worried one.

"I don’t mind, I like Strade Bianche so we will see," he laughed. "It is not ideal, in such races a lot of things can happen so you never know what can go wrong, but it doesn’t frighten me. You still need to have good legs, have a team around you and you need to focus.

"I think it is pretty risky to have this kind of stage, but we risk it anyway every day, so I don’t think it changes too much."

In truth, Pogačar's answer revealed more about his relaxed character than any long-term assessment of whether gravel belongs in Grand Tours. For the Slovenian, such terrain is simply another matter to be dealt with on the way to what he hopes will be a third Tour de France victory.

"We will see, huh" has become more commonly associated with Pogačar's compatriot Primož Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe), but the phrase has been trotted out on a number of occasions by Pogačar in the build-up to the Singapore Criterium, a race that matches the laid-back, easy-going spirit with which Pogačar carries himself.

"You need to try not to screw it up [on the day]!" was his final quip on the matter, as he confirmed that Jaén Paraiso Interior would likely not be on his calendar for 2024.

Roglič's move may prove a welcome break from Jumbo and UAE dominance

As for Pogačar's fellow Slovenian, Roglič, his winter move to Bora-Hansgrohe came as a welcome sight to the UAE Team Emirates frontman as he looked ahead to the 2024 Tour de France.

"I think it is good to have such a big competitor from all of the teams, not like the last two years where we just see Jumbo against UAE," admitted Pogačar.

"I think Remco [Evenepoel] will also come to the Tour, and a lot of other guys are stepping up also on a similar level. I think we can wait and see whether it will be the best Tour ever."

For the fans awaiting the showdown of the 'big four' next summer - Pogačar, Roglič, Evenepoel and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) - Pogačar's positivity will be echoed.

The prospect of seeing all four go head-to-head in France will be a salivating one, with no internal team disputes to distract from the battle that should unfold from the Grand Départ in Italy, to the gravel roads, and the final time trial in Nice. Let us hope that all four stay fit and well between now and July.

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