Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Pogačar had returned home to Slovenia with his fiancée Urška Zigart, a rider on the BikeExchange-Jayco squad, after her mother passed away due to cancer.
Initially, the team had planned for Pogačar to come back to Belgium to race Sunday, but he said Saturday that he would not be defending his title.
“Sadly I won’t be at the start of Liege-Bastogne-Liege tomorrow to defend my title,” Pogačar wrote on Instagram. “It’s been a tough few days but I’d like to thank everybody for their understanding. A special thank you to UAE Team Emirates and especially to Mauro Gianetti and Team President Matar for their support in this situation.”
Zigart had also been scheduled to ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège for BikeExchange this weekend and will, understandably, no longer be racing. She confirmed the death of her mother on her social media earlier this week.
“Life is not fair sometimes. It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I share with you this news today. My mom was my best friend and the most important person in my life,” she wrote on her own Instagram feed. “This is a very hard time for me and my family as we experience this loss and I kindly ask you for some privacy. Thank you for all the messages and support.”
UAE Team Emirates confirmed that McNulty would replace Pogačar on the roster for Sunday. The American hasn’t raced since March after finishing 12th overall at Paris-Nice and winning a stage, and he had been set to return to racing at the Tour de Romandie next week.
McNulty has previously raced Liège-Bastogne-Liège, making his debut in the race last season. He was distanced early on as he tackled the Côte de la Haute-Levée and didn’t finish the race, though Pogačar could go on to win it.
Pogačar won from a five-rider group that went clear on the final climb, beating Julian Alaphlippe in a sprint for the line to take the first monument of his career.