Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) lifts the winner's trophy after sprinting to victory at Il Lombardia.

Pogačar: ‘After the Tour I was very good one day, not at all the next’

The two-time Tour de France winner now has as many Monuments to his name, but he’s struggled with his form since the summer.

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Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) took an historic victory at Il Lombardia, his second Monument of 2021 and his first win since climbing the Tour de France podium in July.

“I dreamed of this victory,” Pogačar said after the finish. “Racing with the best riders in this country, that’s great.”

The Olympic Games road race was the young Slovenian’s first stop after the Tour de France. He clearly took his Tour form with him to Tokyo, finishing third behind Richard Carapaz and Wout van Aert at the end of the 234 km race. But he had mixed results from then on.

“After the Tour I was very good one day, not at all the next.”

Ultimately, Pogačar found his form on Italian roads, finishing fifth behind Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious) at the European Championships in Trento last month, before returning this week and riding to third and fourth at the mid-week races Tre Valli Varesine and Milano-Torino, won by Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) respectively.

As soon as Pogačar appeared at the front in Saturday’s Il Lombardia, his first appearance at the race, he looked every bit the Tour de France champion. No one could keep pace on the Passo di Gamba and in 4 km, he’d gained over 30 seconds. The only man who was willing and/or able to go off in pursuit of Pogačar was Fausto Masnada (Deceuninck-QuickStep), one of the few starters who hails from the finish town of Bergamo.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) leads Fausto Masnada (Deceuninck-QuickStep) up the Colle Aperto near the finish of Il Lombardia.

“I didn’t think that after my attack I would come and ride alone. Apparently everyone was broken,” Pogačar explained. “When I heard that Masnada was coming, I knew he was coming. He knows these roads very well. I’ve never ridden here before.”

Pogačar had been alone for 20 km before Masnada caught him, and even then, he didn’t get any help with the pace-setting, Julian Alaphilippe being in the chase group a minute behind his teammate. Even so, Pogačar’s dominance was unaffected and he was able to raise his arms in celebration for his 13th win of the season.

“It’s crazy. After all the season it’s crazy to finish the season like this. I’m without words,” Pogačar said. “For me every victory is important. Especially this one because I’ve been dreaming to start Lombardia and to race with the best here in Italy for a long time. Now I’m here and I took the victory, it’s just crazy.”

Tadej Pogačar on the Il Lombardia podium, flanked by runner-up Fausto Masnada (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and third-place Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers).

In his post-race interview, the 23-year-old talked more about the extraordinary consistency that he’s shown in recent seasons, in both stage races and one-day classics. This year for instance, he kicked things off with victory at the UAE Tour in February, won Liège-Bastogne-Liège two months later, and then took three stages on his way to a second consecutive Tour de France title. And now, Il Lombardia.

“In this cycling, to be competitive in Grand Tours, you need to be good in all kinds of races: you need to be good on the bike, in sprints, in time trials and one-day races,” Pogačar explained. “Everything happens in Grand Tours and you can use that experience and it helps everywhere. That’s how racing is becoming now. There are a lot of riders who are good in different kinds of races. I think it’s a great time in cycling.”

Asked about his goals in the coming seasons, Pogačar’s answer was simple.

“My dream is to enjoy my cycling as much as possible. When I stop enjoying it then I’ll search for new goals.”

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