So far across 2023, the two-time Tour de France winner is juggling his racing schedule, and has been targeting races he’s never won with wild success.
Up next is the Dutch classic in the hilly Limburg region, a race he’s only started once and has yet to win.
“The spring has already been a big success for us but we’re hungry to come to the Ardennes classics and take home a big result, starting with Amstel,” Pogačar said. “It’s a race I’ve only done once but I know it’s a long, hard parcours with lots of climbing so we need to be ready for a tough race.”
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After blazing to solo victory at the Tour of Flanders, the UAE Team Emirates superstar winds down his spring classics season with Amstel Gold Race and a return to La Flèche Wallonne, another race he’s yet to win, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Pogačar’s only start at Amstel Gold came in 2019 in what’s a rare DNF on his resume.
The Slovenian will be racing Sunday to add the prestigious Dutch classic to his already burgeoning palmarès.
Pogačar will be a favorite for the win on the climb-heavy, technical course that’s well-suited for his explosive style.
“We have seen riders who can win Amstel Gold Race and Liège and win the Tour. With two peaks, it’s possible to prepare for the classics, and then recover, and then have a big chance at the Tour,” UAE director Fabio Baldato told VeloNews earlier this season. “We saw last year that he likes the classics. We are excited to go back there with him.”
As the only starter of the “Big Three,” Pogačar will start Sunday as the five-star favorite.
Former winners Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin Deceuninck) are both skipping the race following the intense northern classics campaign.
Two-time winner Michal Kwiatkowski and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) will be his principal rivals. Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) also returns to racing after skipping the cobblestone classics in favor of the Ardennes.
Keeping things fresh
Pogačar and UAE Team Emirates management wanted to mix up his racing schedule this season in part to keep things fresh and to set new targets.
He skipped title defenses at the UAE Tour, Strade Bianche, and Tirreno-Adriatico in favor of racing in Spain, where he won the Jaén Paraíso Interior gravel race and the Ruta del Sol, before taking down Tour rival Jonas Vingegaard at Paris-Nice, all races he never started before.
After the classics, Pogačar will put the yellow jersey at the center of his ambitions. He’ll prepare at altitude and his only race will be at the Tour of Slovenia ahead of the Tour.
“Of course, Tadej wants to win the Tour again,” Baldato said. “We made an analysis of what happened last year in the Tour, what might have been a mistake, and what we can do better in the Tour.
“Tadej wants to win all the races, not just the Tour.”
Before the Tour, Pogačar will also race up the Mur de Huy at Flèche Wallonne, where his best result in three starts was ninth in 2020.
And then it’s back to Liège for the first time since winning in 2021.
That will put him on a high-profile face-off against Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step).
That sets up the pair’s first rematch since the road world championships in Australia.