Is there anything Tadej Pogačar can’t do?

Pog's DS Mauro Gianetti 'very happy' after defending champion excels in opening period where they were expected to be tested.

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Stage 5 of the 2022 Tour de France on the Roubaix cobbles appeared on the face of it to be the one point of the race where the two-time reigning champion Tadej Pogačar could show weakness.

Having lost his cobbles guide in Matteo Trentin to COVID-19 before the start in Denmark, there wasn’t another obvious member of the UAE Team Emirates squad who could do the same job as the Ineos Grenadiers’ could for Geraint Thomas, or Jumbo-Visma could for Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič.

But that barely mattered as Pogačar watched all three of his main rivals hit the deck. While Jumbo-Visma panicked and picked themselves back up, Pogačar pushed. Having single-handedly kept himself up at the front and out of danger, riding the cobbles with experience beyond his years, he eventually broke free with Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven with a little under 20km to go.

In the end Pogačar only took 13 seconds from Vingegaard, Thomas and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), but the Slovenian’s sports director Mauro Gianetti says it will be a big boost for morale after his rider not only survived but surpassed expectations in the first week of the Tour where he was expected to be tested.

“No, no, Tadej is Tadej, he’s a big champion,” Gianetti told CyclingTips, laughing when asked if there was anything Tadej Pogačar couldn’t do.

“He had a good day, Jumbo had a very bad day with a lot of misfortune and that changed everything in the final, changed the race. That’s why also [Pogačar] couldn’t take so much time because all the five teams with contenders for the GC were just a few seconds behind and were pulling.”

The morning before the stage UAE Team Emirates were worried. This was the day where Ineos Grenadiers’ and Jumbo-Visma’s cobble specialists could really put their GC contender under pressure. Yet that never materialised. All of Jumbo-Visma’s bad luck in the past few Tours seems to be balanced out in the laws of the universe by the good fortune continually bestowed upon UAE Team Emirates, with Pogačar rarely putting a foot wrong.

“He did very well,” Gianetti continued. “We were wishing this morning to not lose time today and it was the most important for us to not lose time. In the end we win 10 seconds, it’s good not so much for the time but for the morale of Tadej and the team.”

At the end of five stages that were supposed to test UAE’s grip on a possible third yellow, Pogačar already stands above his rivals, 21 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger in Vingegaard and more than two minutes over Roglič.

“For us it’s a good day,” Gianetti concluded. “We know this week without Mikkel in good condition and without Trentin, the first five stages were very complicated, the other teams are more structured for this kind of stage. This is why I’m very happy.”

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