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Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) might be about to ride into Paris as the runner-up in the Tour de France but his team boss Mauro Gianetti still believes that the Slovenian is the best rider in the world.
Pogačar came into this year’s Tour de France as the double reigning champion and he wore yellow until stage 11 of this year’s race before capitulating on the Col du Granon and losing the race lead to Jonas Vingegaard.
The Dane is set to win his maiden Tour de France title on Sunday, despite Pogačar’s relentless, yet ultimately futile, aggression through the Alps and Pyrenees.
- UAE Emirates boss: ‘Tadej risked everything’ to try to win the Tour de France
- Tadej Pogačar succumbs to Jonas Vingegaard in final Tour de France gasp: ‘I gave it all’
- Christophe Laporte claims a late break victory on stage 19
Even on stage 19, a relatively flat stage that ended in a victory for Vingegaard’s teammate Christophe Laporte, the Slovenian rider attacked. The move was quickly nullified but it provided further evidence of Pogačar’s desire to at least make the final three days of the Tour entertaining from a GC perspective.
“Today he tried and he was in the position to get some time,” Gianetti told VeloNews at the finish.
“We know that the difference between Tadej and Vingegaard is very small and I think that Tadej is still the best rider in the world but Vingegaard is very strong. What the team and Tadej have done in this Tour has been very good. They’ve contributed a lot and it’s been nice for our vision to promote cycling, especially in UAE. I’m happy with the work of the entire team.”
The race hasn’t even finished yet but the autopsy on Pogačar’s defeat has already started. Tactics have been torn apart, mistakes highlighted and roster scrutinized but for Gianetti the root of this year’s Tour loss stems from three main factors.
“There are many factors. Of course one of the main ones was COVID. At one point in the Tour we were losing a rider one day, then a member of staff the next day. And it went on like that. It was a lot of stress for everyone. Another impact was the day of the Granon when Tadej did a little bit too much. He had a 40-second advantage and then the scheme completely changed. Another point is Wout van Aert in this Tour. These are the three main points,” he said.
The loss of four riders due to COVID, other illnesses, and injuries certainly were factors. Jumbo-Visma wasn’t entirely unaffected by bad luck and health issues but UAE Team Emirates will limp into Paris with just three teammates around Pogačar.
“We could show in this Tour that we were different and maybe a bit better than Jumbo in the mountains and then a bit weaker on the flat but we couldn’t show that because our three climbers, Marc Soler, George Bennett, and Rafal Majka left the Tour. I think that’s important to be in the game with the same number of riders. Of course, Jumbo has a very strong team.”