Tadej Pogačar delighted the home fans by securing his first Tour of Slovenia title in Novo Mestro on Sunday. Entering the final stage with a lead of 1 minute 21 seconds over his nearest rival, Italy’s Diego Ulissi, the reigning Tour de France champion finished safely in the peloton to claim the green jersey as winner of the general classification.
The foundations for Pogačar’s victory were laid on Thursday’s second stage from Žalec to Celje Castle. On a day that had not been expected to be decisive in the battle for overall victory, the UAE Team Emirates rider attacked on the penultimate climb and took a significant advantage in the general classification.
It was a lead that Pogačar defended without undue alarm over the remaining three days. His sternest test came in Saturday’s queen stage, which included five categorised climbs culminating in the ascent to Sveta Gora. He nonetheless came through the test unscathed, finishing second behind teammate Ulissi, the overall winner in 2019. The Italian went on to finish the race in second place, thereby completing a one-two for UAE Team Emirates.
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Pogačar had identified the Tour of Slovenia as one of his main goals for the season, and was visibly delighted to take victory in front of his home fans. “I was always close to the fastest on my first three Tour of Slovenia appearances, I always won white jersey,” he explained afterwards. “Now I finally have a green one and that makes me really happy. I’ve been always fond of this race, it was one of the first races that I watched in person.”
The other big winner in Slovenia was German Phil Bauhaus. The Bahrain Victorious rider claimed two stage wins on the first and last days of the race, which both ended in bunch sprints. He was pushed close for the first of those victories by Spain’s Jon Aberasturi Izaga, who got his revenge by taking Friday’s third stage to Krško.
However, the 2021 edition of the Tour of Slovenia will forever be remembered for Tadej Pogačar. The 22 year-old’s thoughts will now turn to next month’s Tour de France and his campaign to defend the title that he won in Paris last September. “Tour of Slovenia gave me right racing rhythm, and that will be of great help on the first week of Tour,” he said. “Route in Slovenia was very diverse, we had everything from climbs to sprints, and it was a good training race. I’ll now race nationals and then we go to France.”
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