In recent years, professional cycling has been captivated by a new force that is redefining the limits of what young athletes can achieve.
Tadej Pogačar, the prodigious Slovenian cyclist, has made a stunning entrance into the sport, breaking records and collecting an impressive array of accolades.
In this article, I’ll delve into the life and career of Tadej Pogačar so far, examining the unique blend of determination, talent, and ambition that has propelled him to the forefront of the cycling world.
Fun facts about Tadej Pogačar
First cycling club. Pogačar joined his local cycling club, Rog Ljubljana, with his brother Tilen when he was nine.
Early promise. In one of the junior races, Andrej Hauptman, who would become Pogačar’s coach, saw Pogačar struggling behind a group of older teenagers from 100m behind. After checking with the race organizers, Hauptman discovered Pogačar was about to lap the group.
Cycling idols. Alberto Contador, Frank, and Andy Schleck were Pogačar’s cycling idols when he was growing up. They fueled Pogačar’s passion for the sport and played a pivotal role in shaping his journey to becoming a Grand Tour winner.
Cyclocross champion. Unknown to many, Pogačar won the Slovenian cyclocross championships twice in 2018 and 2019. He continues to race cyclocross competitively during the winter season.
First UCI race win. Pogačar won his first UCI race at 16, winning stage 3 of the Peace Race Juniors (Course de la Paix Juniors) in the Czech Republic.
Breakthrough year. 2018 was a breakthrough year for Pogačar, winning the Slovenian National Under-23 championships for road race and time trial. The wins earned him a spot on UAE Team Emirates for the following year, which he has been since then.
Tour de l’Avenir. Like many other great champions before him, such as Egan Bernal, and Nairo Quintana, Pogačar won the 2018 Tour de l’Avenir, widely regarded as the Tour de France for cycling’s up-and-coming stars.
World Tour debut. Pogačar made his World Tour debut at the Tour Down Under in 2019 with UAE Team Emirates, finishing 13th overall.
Youngest UCI World Tour race winner. By winning the Tour of California at 20, Pogačar became the youngest rider to win a UCI World Tour stage race, beating Sergio Higuita and Kasper Asgreen. He took the leader’s jersey after winning the queen stage to Mount Baldy on Stage 6.
Grand Tour debut. At just 21 years old, Pogačar was already proving himself as a force to be reckoned with in the Grand Tours, winning the 2019 Vuelta a España Young Rider classification and finishing third in the general classification behind compatriot Primož Roglič and road world champion Alejandro Valverde. He also won three stages.
First Grand Tour stage win. Pogačar won his first Grand Tour stage on stage 9 at the 2019 Vuelta a España, on a wet mountain stage to Cortals d’Encamp in Andorra.
Tour de France debut. In his debut year, Pogačar won the 2020 Tour de France general classification, Young Rider classification, Mountains classification, and three stages. He was the first and remained the only Slovenian to have won the Tour de France.
Second youngest Tour de France winner. At 21, he was the second youngest rider to win the Tour de France after Henri Cornet, who won in 1904 at 19.
Successive Tour de France wins. Pogačar won his second successive Tour de France general classification, Young Rider classification, Mountains classification in 2021, a feat never achieved before.
90 weeks at the top. Pogačar ranked first on the UCI world ranking for a record total of 90 weeks from 2021 to 2022, in which 80 weeks were consecutive.
Known for long-range attacks. One of the traits that made Pogačar a top rider is his ability to launch long-range attacks and ride solo to the finish. On stage 20 of the 2019 Vuelta a España, Pogačar attacked with 40km out to win the stage and move up to third. In the 2023 Tour of Flanders, he attacked on the Oude Kwaremont, 50km from the finish, and chased down the breakaway before riding solo to win the race.
Monument Master. Pogačar’s triumph at the Tour of Flanders has earned him his fourth career Monument win, spread over three separate races (Tour of Flanders, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, and Giro di Lombardia). He won Giro di Lombardia twice; 2021 and 2022.
Winning all five Monuments. This remarkable feat cements his position as one of the best riders in the sport and puts him on track to potentially win all five Monuments. After his win at the Tour of Flanders, Pogačar admitted that the Paris-Roubaix would be the hardest Monument to win, and he has to put on at least a few kgs to survive the cobblestones.
Versatile rider. Pogačar’s impressive victories span various races and terrains, from the Tour de France to the Classics. His adaptability and success in these different events build a strong case for him as the best rider of all time.
Tracking the Greats. Pogačar’s early career closely parallels that of legendary cyclist Eddy Merckx. He has already surpassed Merckx by winning the Tour of Flanders in his second attempt, whereas Merckx took four tries to claim victory in that race. As Pogačar continues to rack up wins, the world will watch to see if he can surpass the achievements of cycling’s greatest champions.
Media savviness. Despite his young age, Pogačar has shown an aptitude for handling media attention and public scrutiny. His humble demeanor and thoughtful responses to interviews endeared him to fans and journalists, making him a popular figure in the cycling community.
Active Twitter user. Pogačar is very active on Twitter. On one occasion, he replied to former pro, Adam Blythe’s tweet 17 minutes before the start of the 2023 Tour of Flanders, which he eventually won.
An olympic medalist. Pogačar won the bronze medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic road race, behind Richard Carapaz and Wout van Aert. He is also the only Tour de France winner to win an Olympic medal in the same year.
Engaged to a fellow cyclist. Pogačar and his partner Urška Žigart became engaged in September 2021. Urška Žigart currently rides for Team Jayco–AlUla’s women’s team.
Pride of Slovenia. Pogačar’s accomplishments and those of fellow Slovenian cyclist Primož Roglič have elevated cycling to new heights of popularity in their home country, making it one of Slovenia’s most beloved sports.
At just 24 years old, Pogačar has already achieved remarkable success in his career. With his talent, determination, and continued growth, the future looks incredibly promising for this young Slovenian cyclist. Fans can expect to see him continue to make his mark on the sport for years to come.
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