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Tadej Pogačar won’t line out against Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel at Strade Bianche next month.
Pogačar explained Tuesday he’d rather focus on preparing for his Paris-Nice debut – a race that will see him face off with Jonas Vingegaard – instead of defending his title on the Tuscan white roads.
“If I want to be really good in Paris-Nice, which I’ve never done before and is a super-hard race, the team time trial will be important. We’ll need to spend a few days before the race together [to prepare for it]. If I do Strade Bianche that’s impossible,” Pogačar told Sporza.
“I’d go to the team time trial without any knowledge of the group, and I don’t think it will work.”
Pogačar was expected to line up as part of a stellar start list at Strade Bianche on March 4, but the UAE Team Emirates captain’s focus on a redesigned winter calendar puts favor on Paris-Nice, starting March 5.
He already bypassed his usual appearance at his team’s home race at the UAE Tour in favor of blitzing a Spanish program with four wins and a GC victory across six race days.
Defending Tour de France champion Vingegaard will also be at the start in Paris next month after his season debut in O Gran Camiño this week, making for a mouth-watering early preview of the Tour de France.
Stage racers choosing to race Strade typically back up the gravelly one-dayer with a ride through Tirreno-Adriatico.
Pogačar rode that Italian route last year. The now-24-year-old barnstormed into Siena off the back of a 50km solo and went on to steamroller Tirreno, where Vingegaard placed second.
“Tadej, he’s a guy who enjoys himself with cycling, he enjoys and benefits from change and discovering new races,” UAE Emirates team principal Mauro Gianetti told VeloNews this week.
“His aim to discover the world is so nice. And we as a team think it’s important for him to have the opportunity to discover other things, to keep him fresh.”
From Paris-Nice, Pogačar is on the fast track to a hotly anticipated return to the Tour of Flanders.
Milan-San Remo, Dwaars door Vlaanderen, De Ronde, and the Ardennes are all on his provisional program for the coming months.
“From now it’ll only be hard, important races,” Pogačar told Sporza. “I’ll try to be good in the classics, especially Milan-San Remo and Flanders. And then all eyes are on the Tour.”