Pogacar: I’m not so far from my Tour de France shape.

Tadej Pogačar raised the famous Tirreno-Adriatico winner’s trident trophy in celebration for a second consecutive year, having dominated the week-long race to confirm his incredible stage racing talents yet again.

The UAE Team Emirates rider won the points and young rider classification in addition to his big victory in the general classification. The 23-year-old now counts ten stage race victories on his palmarès, including two editions of the Tour de France twice, in just over three years as a World Tour professional.

Pogačar now seems to dominate every race he targets and is three for three in 2022 after winning the UAE Tour, Strade Bianche and now Tirreno-Adriatico. Next up is Saturday’s Milan-San Remo and then the Tour of Flanders, the Ardennes Classics and then the Tour de France.

He appears to grow in confidence and ability with each victory, yet he remains humble and hungry, without suffering under the pressure or expectation of team leadership or his success.

“Things are going great, I can’t complain,” Pogačar said after taking his multitude prizes on the podium in San Benedetto del Tronto, explaining his philosophy on stress-free but successful racing.

“I like to race,” he explained, simply. “We go to races to win and we try to win. The team works hard to get the win, so if I’m the leader, I really want to repay them for the work they do.

“Victories are always nice. I think everyone has the same mindset: to win.”

Pogačar is paid an estimated €6 million a year to win for UAE Team Emirates, with the team’s home race at the UAE Tour and the biggest race of the season at the Tour de France the major goals.

There are expectations in both February and July but Pogačar seems able to harness it all and even use it to his advantage.

“Sometimes I feel stressed. Especially when there’s a big goal there’s some pressure to win, say at the UAE Tour or the Tour de France, but not in a bad way,” he said.

“But that just keeps you even more motivated. I don’t stress myself, I don’t put myself under pressure in a bad way. I think it helps to be more relaxed about everything, not to be stressed about anything. For sure it’s a big plus.”

At Tirreno-Adriatico, however, Pogačar rode with seemingly no pressure at all, a level above all his rivals. He limited any time losses to Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) and Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) in the opening time trial in Lido di Camaiore and was well protected by his UAE Team Emirates teammate on the subsequent flat stages.

He then won stage 4 to Bellante with his trademark powerful surge on the uphill finish, and then blew his rivals away on the double climb of Monte Carpegna, where Eddy Merckx once won and wore the maglia rosa from start to finish in 1973, and where Marco Pantani famously tested his form before his own Grand Tour triumphs.

Pogačar’s performance on Monte Carpegna was impressive, with some data published on social media suggesting he climbed at 6.5 w/kg for 18 minutes was a significant 0.5 w/kg better than his rivals. That perhaps put his ride up there with his Tour de France performances, where he also significantly out-performed his rivals.

He appeared to dismiss anyone trying to calculate his power data when asked by Cyclingnews but was open to comparison to his Tour de France performances even if there is room for improvement.

“My performance yesterday wasn’t the same as a stage at the Tour. I think that was because of the super cold and that it was a long, hard, long stage,” Pogačar suggested.

“It was still a really great effort. My fitness is more or less similar to last year at this time. I’m not so far from my Tour shape, the numbers are quite good.”

The question on everyone’s mind, including Pogačar’s rivals, is if he can hold his form for the weeks ahead, until Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“If I’m like this until Liège-Bastogne-Liège I’d be more than happy,” Pogačar said with a smile.

“It’s always hard to improve. I can maybe take off a kilogram, then we’ll see if it’s better or not.”

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