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Pogacar rule out Van Aert for Giro GC, eyes Van der Poel for Flanders triumph

Tadej Pogacar, the Slovenian cycling sensation, has confirmed his ambitious plans for 2024, aiming for the Giro-Tour double. He doesn’t see Wout van Aert, whom he’ll encounter in the Giro, as a threat for the general classification, expecting Van Aert to focus on stage wins and the points jersey instead.

Pogacar acknowledged Van Aert’s capability in week-long stage races, recalling their encounter in the 2021 Tirreno-Adriatico where he triumphed over Van Aert. “He’s certainly one of the best climbers among classic riders,” Pogacar noted. However, he believes a grand tour classification is a different ball game and doesn’t think Van Aert is eyeing that goal.

While Pogacar debuts in the Giro, he will miss the Ronde van Vlaanderen, a race he shone in over the past two years. He expressed his hope for Mathieu van der Poel’s success in the event, highlighting the Dutchman’s status as a world champion.

Reflecting on his career, the UAE Emirates leader shared his long-standing desire to participate in the Giro, a race close to his Slovenian roots. He attended the Giro stage in Trieste in 2014, describing it as an unforgettable experience. “But I became a pro with UAE. The Vuelta was immediately a success. And then I won the Tour twice. So, there was no time for the Giro,” he explained.

Pogacar emphasised the need for new challenges, aligned with his team’s vision. He highlighted the importance of not repeating the same schedule each year for both physical and motivational reasons. Regarding the Tour de France, Pogacar stated that cycling isn’t just about the Tour, even though it’s the biggest and most important race. He anticipates a year when the Tour won’t be on his agenda.

For his 2024 preparation, Pogacar has a less crowded lead-up, focusing fully on the races he enters. He mentioned that racing only to train doesn’t suit him; he prefers to be fully prepared or train at home. With the Tour starting just weeks after the Giro, Pogacar plans a careful approach, ensuring he finishes the Giro strong to maintain his base for the Tour.

Main photo credit: Cor Vos