Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
The two-time Tour champion carries a slender lead into the Tour’s second rest day, and McNulty told VeloNews the morale inside the team bus is sky high.
“I’ve never seen him this good and he’s hungrier than ever,” McNulty told VeloNews.
“Yesterday was a bit somber because Vegard [Stake Laengen] went home, and he’s a great guy to have around,” he said. “But all around everyone is in a really good mood. Things are going great.”
Pogačar has already won two stages and attacked near the end of Sunday’s stage to grab a few more seconds on everyone except his most direct rival Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).
McNulty rode into the day’s main breakaway to protect Pogačar’s rearguard by being up the road.
“The plan wasn’t really to be in the break,” McNulty said. “We shut down one move, and then George said just follow if more guys go. I just sat on planning to go with Tadej if it came back in the end.
“It was still good to be there in the end for the team,” he said. “For me it was nice to be in the break, because I didn’t have any responsibility to pull. I wasn’t going to for the stage regardless, it was pretty relaxed just to sit on, and then take some final pulls for the team.”
McNulty confirming his place alongside Pogačar
The 24-year-old McNulty is back for his second Tour with UAE, and after proving his value last year, he has a growing role on the team.
“I am just trying to be one of Tadej’s last guys, with me, Majka and Bennett,” he said. “We all try to be there as long as we can, and be there as long as possible for Tadej.”
McNulty admitted the team was nervous of the landmines of the first week, but Pogačar rides into the decisive turning point of the Tour in pole position to win a third yellow jersey.
“Until the Roubaix stage everyone was scared because there is so much that could have gone wrong,” he said. “I came out with a small crash, but nothing serious. We have the jersey, and no one is injured. It was a really good first week.”
McNulty said if he “stays healthy” a return to the Vuelta a España could be in the cards later this season.
For COVID-19, which already took out one of the team’s eight riders, McNulty said the team is doing everything it can to protect its racers.
“It’s stressful, but it’s like this for two years,” he said. “The stakes are always higher here. You cannot live in fear, but you have to take every precaution you can.”
McNulty is among seven starting Americans in the 2022 Tour, and said he tries to catch up with his compatriots during the sign-in and neutral rollouts before the start of each stage.
Back home, all of his family and friends are watching the race back home on TV.
“It’s always motivating when the camera is there, and you know that they can see it back home,” he said. “Once you get into it, you forget how big it is. It is really special to be in the Tour.”
And what are his rest day plans?
“Just rest, and maybe I will get a haircut,” he said. “Otherwise just do nothing.”