UAE Team Emirates: Giro-Tour double ‘complicated, but not impossible’ for Tadej Pogacar
Team manager Matxin calls Slovenian ‘the special one’ as his 2024 programme is confirmed”We see it as complicated, but not impossible,” was UAE Team Emirates manager Joxean Fernández Matxin’s view on Monday of the feasibility of Tadej Pogačar capturing not one but two Grand Tours in 2024.
Following Pogačar’s surprise announcement on Sunday that he will try to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same year, 24 hours later there was no way that any other subject could dominate the UAE Team Emirates media day in Spain.
When it comes to following Pantani’s wheel tracks 26 years later, as Matxin told reporters, reasons ranged from looking for a new goal for Pogačar to his having reached an age – 25 – when he had developed enough physical resilience to tackle two Grand Tours.But, according to Matxin, the main reason is that Tadej Pogačar being Tadej Pogačar, “the best rider in the world” as he put it, has what it takes as a racer to double his Grand Tour tally in a single season.
“It’s a new challenge, a new stimulus, and it’s good to change goals sometimes,” Matxin told reporters.
“We’re still keeping the idea of trying to win the Tour de France, but it’s the first time he’ll be doing two Grand Tours in a single season and at 25 years old, I think Tadej is ready for that challenge.”
Apart from a much later start than last year when he kicked off with the Clásica Jaén in early February, Pogačar’s focus on the two Grand Tours as well as the Paris Olympics and then the Zürich World Championships – means there’s no defence of his Tour of Flanders title. He’ll be skipping all of spring’s cobbled and Ardennes Classics, bar Liège-Bastogne-Liège, too.
“Barring stages that are completely flat, every single race Tadej takes part in, Tadej creates expectations,” Matxin said. “So we’re focussing on the Giro and Tour, and he won’t be doing the cobbled Classics.”
So is it possible for Pogačar to win both Grand Tours back to back, he was asked. “We’re crossing our fingers,” he answered. “For me, Tadej Pogačar is the best rider in the world, the one rider who is always in perfect condition every race he does.
“Last year he changed Tirreno-Adriatico for Paris-Nice, this year he’s doing the Giro. It’s the moment for him to do two Grand Tours in the same year. We think doing the cobbled Classics, then the Giro and the Tour and, hopefully, the Olympics is a lot, particularly when he’ll then focus on Canada and Worlds.”
Matxin also said that Pogačar, the first rider to go for the double since Chris Froome in 2018, would not do any racing whatsoever between the Giro and Tour.
As for why the idea of doing the Giro and Tour this year worked better in 2024 than in another season, Matxin pointed out that there is an unusually long period between the end of one Grand Tour and the start of the next 33 days.
That’s actually the same as in 2023, but more than the 31 in 2022 and most other years. The relative drop in mountain climbing in the Giro d’Italia route in 2024 – around 10,000 metres fewer than in 2023 and far less backloaded than usual – also makes going it more propitious to try both races next May and July.
Matxin also outlined which UAE Team Emirates riders would, in principle, be racing the first two Grand Tours of the season, with Rafał Majka and Jay Vine taking on the Giro while a stacked squad – including Adam Yates, João Almeida, Juan Ayuso, and Pavel Sivakov – head to the Tour. He also mentioned that Yates and Vine would likely take part in the Vuelta a España.
But, obviously, the key rider in all of this is Pogačar, whose personal qualities as a racer made him the right man for the double Grand Tour job – an attempt to repeat the feat achieved by Coppi, Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, and Indurain as well as Pantani.
“It’s complicated to win two GTs but not impossible,” Matxin said. “And one of the riders for whom this is less complicated than for most is Tadej. I believe that with his character and his personality, he can do it. He is the special one. He is the best rider I’ve come across in my career.”
As for whether the biggest goal was to win the Giro or the Tour in 2024 for Pogačar, Matxin made it very clear which one they wanted in UAE’s and the Slovenian’s palmarès by this time next year, answering simply: “Both.”