Tadej Pogačar tweaks road map to Tour de France with Spanish season debut

Slovenian superstar spicing up season debut with starts at the gravel-loaded Jaén Paraíso and Ruta del Sol in bypass of UAE Tour.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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Tadej Pogačar is tweaking his road map to the Tour de France in 2023, and will debut in Spain later this month rather than at the UAE Tour.

UAE Team Emirates officials confirmed the Slovenian superstar will open his calendar at the Jaén Paraíso one-day gravel-addled race in southern Spain on February 13, and then race the five-day Ruta del Sol for the first time February 15-19.

“It’s nice to experience new races and I’m looking forward to what Jaén and Andalucía have in store for us,” Pogačar said Monday. “I can’t wait to start racing again.”

The confirmation of Pogačar’s early season schedule means he will not be defending his title at the UAE Tour (February 20-26) that he won in 2021 and 2022.

Instead, the team will take Adam Yates and Brandon McNulty to the race on “home roads” for team backers UAE, while Pogačar will stay on European roads to open his 2023 calendar.

Pogačar wants to ‘keep things fresh’

Pogačar wants to keep up his winning ways in 2023. (Photo by Dario Belingheri/Getty Images) 

Pogačar is slated to race Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico as well as a full classics calendar going into April, meaning the switch to the Spanish races is the only significant change to his racing blueprint that’s worked so well the past few seasons.

“For Tadej the plan this year was to keep the base of the calendar more or less the same while making a few adjustments, which is what we’ve done,” said sport director Joxean Matxin Fernández.

“Tadej is a rider who likes to keep things fresh and try new things so starting the year here in Jaén and Andalucía made sense,” he said. “The season will be long so our idea is to build up gradually to the biggest targets.”

Pogačar last raced with a pair of victories at Il Lombardia and Tre Valle Varesini, winning both to close out 2022 with a pair of victories.

The UAE star also confirmed he was zapped by a stomach bug in January, adding, “I had a bit of gastroenteritis in January which wasn’t very pleasant but thankfully I’m over it and feeling healthy.”

Jaén Paraíso was a new entry on the European calendar last year, and the route traces many of the gravel roads across Spain’s “sea of olives” across the wide expanse of olive groves in the Jaén region.

The five-day Ruta del Sol provides a balance of transition stages and some early season climbs in southern Spain’s sunny Andalucía region.

“I’m excited for these races and to pin on a number again and be with the team,” Pogačar said. “I’ve been watching the first races last weeks on the TV and enjoying it, but also wishing a bit to be there in the action.”

Fernández promised the team will be showing up to win.

“For Jaén and Andalucía we have a highly experienced team who we believe can do great things,” Fernández said. “Obviously the gravel aspect of Jaén makes it a good place for us to test material and bikes, so it’s a race that offers a lot. But of course, like any race we do we are also there to target victory.

“We are taking a roster with a lot of quality which will be headed by Pogačar who will also make his season debut here,” he said. “Though we have many riders in the team who can step-up for a big result.”

UAE Team Emirates for Jaén Paraíso

Sjoerd Bax (Ned)
Alessandro Covi (Ita)
Marc Hirschi (Swi)
Domen Novak (Slo)
Tadej Pogačar (Slo)
Matteo Trentin (Ita)
Tim Wellens (Bel)

UAE Team Emirates for Ruta del Sol

Sjoerd Bax (Ned)
George Bennett (NZ)
Alessandro Covi (Ita)
Rafal Majka (Pol)
Domen Novak (Slo)
Tadej Pogačar (Slo)
Tim Wellens (Bel)

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