Rafał Majka and Tadej Pogačar celebrate a dominant one-two on stage 4 of the Tour of Slovenia.

Tadej Pogačar and UAE Team Emirates crush the competition at the Tour of Slovenia

"Hold my beer," said UAE Team Emirates to Jumbo-Visma. Sort of.

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Fireworks in the final 10 kilometres of stage 5 capped off a spectacular Tour of Slovenia for UAE Team Emirates, as Tadej Pogačar initiated a three-man move that culminated in another stage win for the 22-year-old superstar, with Matej Mohorič bullied into runner-up spot by the combined strength of his young compatriot and wing-man Rafał Majka.

Mohorič had to settle for a podium finish as the UAE Team Emirates duo orchestrated a second stage win for their double Tour de France champion.

Pogačar could have set himself the challenge of winning every stage of the Tour of Slovenia, even the sprint stage, and no one would have been particularly surprised if he’d succeeded. But he and his team chose a different approach to pre-Tour de France psychological warfare.

Like a stage show’s previews, the various Tour de France warm-up races offer favourites and teams a chance to work together, test themselves, sharpen their cohesion, and hopefully get some confidence-building standing ovations under their belts before opening night.

Majka won stage 1, taking the first green leader’s jersey of the Tour of Slovenia, after going on a late raid with Pogačar and Domen Novak (Bahrain Victorious), who ends the race best of the rest in third overall.

UAE Team Emirates wasn’t the only WorldTeam at the Tour of Slovenia – not the hardest pre-Tour warm-up race – but while BikeExchange-Jayco was out on a morale-boosting quest for stage wins and Bahrain Victorious hoped to show off their extensive Slovenian talent (and Astana Qazaqstan was, um, there), Pogačar and his pals were out to make a statement.

Here’s what we do: win; and how we do it: together.

After five days of hot and hard racing, UAE Team Emirates chalked up four stage wins, third place for a resurgent Pascal Ackermann on stage 2, the KOM and points jerseys, and the overall victory, of course. And along the way, no one was having more fun.

Pogačar might (only) have won two of those stages, but he was alongside Rafał Majka for both of his: a few lengths behind on stage 1 and literally arm in arm on stage 4 – that’s not to take anything away from the Pole whose second overall plainly indicates his scintillating form. What’s more important though, is that UAE Team Emirates succeeded in ticking many of the boxes you’d expect from a Grand Tour squad (although without Mikkel Bjerg and Vegard Stake Laengen who tested positive for Covid-19), echoing the work of Jumbo-Visma at the Critérium du Dauphiné where the whole team shares in the story.

Pogačar has historically done just fine with less team support than some of his rivals. Rightly or wrongly, it’s widely thought that many of his early (earlier) career successes were more or less a solo effort, but UAE Team Emirates built him a better support system for his successful title defence last season, signing multiple Tour stage-winner and twice King of the Mountains Rafał Majka, and it’s looking like they’ve taken another step up this year.

Look familiar?

By approaching their charismatic leader’s home race not as a one-man lap of honour but as a team-building exercise, UAE Team Emirates has shown they have more than just one man in the fight.

Tour of Slovenia (2.Pro) Vrhnika → Novo mesto

POGAČAR Tadej
1
POGAČAR Tadej UAE Team Emirates
2
MOHORIČ Matej Bahrain - Victorious
3
MAJKA Rafał UAE Team Emirates
4
MEZGEC Luka Team BikeExchange - Jayco
5
FELLINE Fabio Astana Qazaqstan Team
6
CONCI Nicola Alpecin-Fenix
7
FIORELLI Filippo Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè
8
ALBANESE Vincenzo EOLO-Kometa
9
SOTO Antonio Jesús Euskaltel - Euskadi
10
BARCELÓ Fernando Caja Rural - Seguros RGA

POGAČAR Tadej

POGAČAR Tadej

MAJKA Rafał

ŘEPA Vojtěch

Caja Rural - Seguros RGA

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