Tadej Pogačar. Winner of Liège, Lombardia, the Tour de France (twice…so far), expert troll? Maybe.
Following his barnstorming start to 2022, Strade, UAE, and Tirreno, his form looked imperious leading into his debut Tour of Flanders. So commanding did the Slovenian look on the bike, that journalist Will Newton asked in March: “Chances Pog says ‘fuck it’ and rides Roubaix after winning MSR and Flanders?”
“Not much,” came the unexpected reply from Pog.
Of course, another Slovenian won Milan – San Remo, and Pogačar’s De Ronde looked to be going exactly to plan before it suddenly wasn’t, messing up his sprint after six and a half hours in the saddle.
Pog was pissed. Un petit morsel de boeuf spilled over after the finish line as Pogačar remonstrated Dylan van Baarle, who alongside Valentin Madouas connived to dump him off the podium in the final throes of the race.
It all blew over pretty quickly, however, the incident quickly forgotten about. How do we know that?
“See you in Paris-Roubaix?” Pogačar tweeted two hours after the race finished, accompanied by an emoji depicting someone laughing so hard that giant globules of water were falling out of their face.
The next day, Pogačar posted a photo, he was back on the bike and smiling. Behind him, the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. Specfically, the Arenberg. The caption: A quizzical emoji, an awkwardly-gritting teeth emoji (it’s lucky I’m fluent in emoji).
“Tadej Pogačar the day after riding the 270km in the Tour of Flanders is doing a reconnaissance of Paris-Roubaix,” said one person on Twitter, breathlessly. “Whoa! Who can remember a Roubaix winner under 70kg.”
Ladies and gentlemen, Tadej Pogačar is on the biggest troll job the cycling world has ever seen.
It’s not enough that he’s currently humbling the rest of the peloton in most of the races he touches (did you see him casually float up the field on the Kwaremont yesterday?) He’s now turned his attention to the rest of us mere mortals to dish out some deserved humiliation.
That, of course, is looking too deeply into it. Really, he’s just having some fun. Toying with a media obsessed with every move and thought the top riders have.
Most likely he’s just checking out the cobbles ahead of the Tour de France stage five, which returns to Roubaix’s cobbles and offers up a serious hazard for all yellow jersey contenders. This Tour de France recon trip has been planned for some time. Plus, Paris-Roubaix is just nine weeks from the Grand Départ in Copenhagen, and the possibility of injury during the cobbled Classic poses too great a risk to his attempt for a third-straight yellow jersey.
“Not much,” was how Pogačar described the chances of him racing Roubaix. Not much chance, but a little one.
At this point, would it be so ridiculous if the 23-year-old just rocked up on the start line in Compiègne in two weeks’ time? Now that would really make the trolling complete.