Home Sports Tadej Pogačar’s Tour title defense on track with Tirreno victory

Tadej Pogačar’s Tour title defense on track with Tirreno victory

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SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy — Two stage races. Two overall victories. Tadej Pogacar is preparing perfectly to defend his Tour de France title. The Slovenian won the weeklong Tirreno-Adriatico race by a comfortable margin ahead of a stellar field Tuesday, adding to his title in the UAE Tour last month.

“What a fantastic start to the season,” Pogacar said. “This is one of the biggest one-week races.” After placing fourth in the concluding time trial, Pogacar finished 1 minute, 3 seconds ahead of Wout van Aert in the overall standings of the sea-to-sea race. Mikel Landa finished third overall, 3:57 behind. Egan Bernal, the 2019 Tour winner, finished fourth, more than 4 minutes behind Pogacar.

The 22-year-old Pogacar won one stage in the UAE Tour and the Tirreno, taking Saturday’s “queen” leg that finished with a grueling climb to Prati di Tivo. Pogacar also gained time against all his overall rivals in Sunday’s fifth stage, which featured a circuit over a series of short climbs or “walls” when he nearly caught breakaway rider, Mathieu van der Poel.

Tadej Pogačar

“Stage 5 in the cold, wet weather. That’s the stage I will never forget,” said Pogacar, who rides for the UAE Team Emirates. Van Aert, who rides for the Jumbo-Visma team, won the time trial for his second stage win of the race.

Van Aert clocked 11:06 along the flat 10.1-kilometer (6.3-mile) route in San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic coast. European champion Stefan Kung finished second, six seconds behind, and world champion Filippo Ganna was third, 11 seconds back – ending his winning streak in time trials at eight.

“I’m improving in this discipline every year a little bit,” Van Aert said. “It was my first time aiming for GC in a stage race, and I only got beaten by the Tour de France winner. I’ll try more of this in the future, but I have the classics in my mind for now, starting with Milano-Sanremo.” Pogacar finished one second behind Ganna on the stage.

Up next on the World Tour calendar is the Milan-San Remo classic, although Pogacar is not entering that race. He’ll next compete in the Tour of the Basque Country in April, followed by the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege single-day races. The multi-talented van Aert also won the opening stage in a sprint. He’ll be looking to defend his Milan-San Remo title. “But first,” he said, “I want to rest a little bit.”

“I felt perfect this week, and I saw last year that I improved my form afterward,” the Belgian rider said. “Now, I’ve got to recover as well as possible. “But I saw a lot of strong riders this week,” van Aert added, “so I’m not the only favorite.” Tadej Pogačar’s Tour title defense on track with Tirreno victory originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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