Sassenage (France) (AFP)
Two stages of the Tour de France and a second place in the general classification: of attraction, Tadej Pogacar has turned into a serious candidate for the yellow jersey in Paris less than a week before the arrival at the Champs-Elysées.
Photograph of the Slovenian comet.
The future is already here.
Two years after his success on the Tour de l'Avenir, 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar has his large-format version within reach: the Big Loop.
Whose he could dethrone the fallen prince Egan Bernal as the youngest victor of the post-war period.
40 seconds away from the Slovenian Primoz Roglic yellow jersey, "Tamau" Pogi - little Pogi - continues to think big.
"That's the plan," replied Pogacar, when asked about the possibility of seeing him on the top step of the podium in Paris after his stage victory.
"The battle for the yellow jersey is not over, he promised Monday. But I can not tell you how we will lead it. Otherwise, there will be no more surprises."
The sharp attacks, which he multiplied in the final climbs, are not really any more.
His raid towards Loudenvielle in the Pyrenees allowed him to make up part of his delay in the borders.
"Tadej has a big mentality", appreciated, after this number, his team-mate and compatriot Jan Polanc.
- "Tadej fears no one" -
"On the Tour, anyone would be afraid of names like Bernal, Valverde ... and stay in the squad to see what happens. But Tadej is not afraid of anyone," his first coach, Miha Koncilja, told AFP. in his debut club KD Rog in Ljubljana.
According to him, Pogacar's very aggressive running style was forged in the youth classes across the country.
"As the year 1998 was a generation of talents in Slovenia, all the races were a fireworks display. One of them attacked, another countered. It was that non-stop", describes Miha Koncilja, still coach, of the U17 and U19, in the same club in the capital.
Friend of the family, he first gave brother Tilen Pogacar a taste for cycling: "Tadej played football but you know how it is: when the big brother takes up a sport, the other also wants to try . "
At 9 years old, Tadej could not find a bicycle to his size in the club, which after a few months bought him one.
And height will long be a problem for the teenager, now measured at 1.76 m.
"He was much shorter than children his age, 10 or 15 centimeters shorter. At 12 or 13, it was impossible to compete with them. He had to fight nonstop to stay in contact with others," said the one. who saw it explode at the highest level.
- Revelation in 2018 -
His first big result was a third place at the European Junior Championship in 2016 just after winning the Giro della Lunigiana, a stage race for juniors held in Italy which has a few names on his list: Damiano Cunego, Vincenzo Nibali and, in 2018, a certain Remco Evenepoel.
"We understood that he really had something special at that time. Then he surprised us every year," says Miha Koncilja.
His results on the national scene had already caught the eye of former Slovenian sprinter Andrej Hauptman, surprise bronze medalist at the 2001 Worlds, who took him under his wing.
Sports director at UAE-Emirates, it is he who allows his recruitment at the end of 2018 within this team and to see him today in position to win the Tour, after his brilliant Vuelta 2019 (podium and 3 stages).
“His youth is an advantage, says Miha Koncilja. He doesn't feel any pressure and still loves cycling. It's not just his job but his passion and his lifestyle.”
Including her love life: her partner Urska Zigart is also a professional cyclist and is currently competing in the women's Giro.
"I can not find where to watch it. I will have to watch it later," said Tadej Pogacar.
His only regret at the moment.
© 2020 AFP