I Will Have No.1 on My Back and Will Try to Defend It, Says Tour Champion Pogacar
Champion Tadej Pogacar this weekend returns to the Tour de France, the world’s greatest cycle race, aiming to become the youngest racer to win back-to-back titles.
His victory in 2020 went far beyond the norm: for the manner in which he won; for the impact it made on the small country of Slovenia; and for him revealing a purpose beyond road racing to help those less fortunate.
It also earned him a Nomination for the prestigious Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award. He says: “After the Tour, to be also nominated for this prestigious Award was something amazing. I felt really honoured.”
Who can forget Pogacar’s remarkable feat, pulling back a lead of 57 seconds - a massive gap at this level of racing - on the penultimate day? He overtook Tour leader, Slovenian Primoz Roglic in the race last September, becoming, at 21, the youngest winner for 116 years.
Laureus Academy Member and cycling legend Fabian Cancellara said at the time: “In sport there are very few moments that everyone will remember for years. This was one of those. Tadej was so far behind, it really seemed impossible he could win. This was all about his mental strength to keep going and not to give up.”
Pogacar says: “I am slowly understanding that I won the biggest race in the world. For sure people will expect me to win every race that I start, but I know that's not possible. And if I fail I will always try and get myself back up so I will always try to do my best and chase more victories.
“But it's not like I can win every race because there are so many riders, so much big competition. Now I am just enjoying the moment and trying to do my best in every race. At the Tour de France, I will have on my back No.1 and will try to defend it.”
Pogacar also reveals that he has a purpose beyond road racing, by helping those less fortunate than himself. To this end he has donated some of his yellow jerseys for charity. One auctioned directly after the 2020 Tour de France, made €47,000 to help young people play sport in Slovenia – and this is just the beginning.
He says: “Cycling is what I have done now for over a decade and yes to do something else to help others for me seems a good thing. I feel really glad that I can help. For sure, I want to continue in this way.
“We started a project with my previous team. We got them new bikes, new clothes, everything they needed for cycling, because now it's getting really expensive, this sport, and not everybody can afford it.”
Pogacar’s victory has helped to create a cycling boom in Slovenia. He says: “There's a lot of cyclists now in Slovenia. I think because of all the good results, not just the Tour. It’s getting bigger and bigger every year now. Everybody knows me in Slovenia. If I go to the gas station
or anywhere they recognise me.”
This year Pogacar will be supported once again in the Tour de France by the UAE Emirates team. He says: “I feel really comfortable in this team. They trust me 100% and I trust them, so we all have a good relationship. They have good management, good organisation and staff and we have such a good riders. When I'm in the race, I always feel good, I feel like at home, it's easier when you have nice people around you."