Tadej Pogacar, the young Slovenian double champion at only 23 years old

Tadej Pogacar with another cyclist and his partner, Urska Zigart.Credit:Getty Images

“We did a sprint acceleration thing and I remember, I asked for someone who’s not very good because I’m not good, and there was this one, a shy boy who said, ‘Yeah, I’m not really good at that,’ Zigart said age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

“We’re doing the first one and my heart rate is 196. ‘I don’t think you know what it means when you’re not good at it,'” she told him.

“We still train together, although my heart rate doesn’t go so high anymore, at least I don’t let it go so high with him anymore.”

UAE Team Emirates sporting director Andrej Hauptman works with Pogacar on the Tour, but the Slovenian has long followed the career of the man he and Peiper call ‘our son’, as coach of the national team and junior club coach.

Hauptman has a similar story about the physical ability of Pogacar, who heading into the Tour this year has puzzled past and current champions on how to improve.

Pogacar was around 11 when Hauptman first saw him run at a club meet. “I saw a very short guy behind the group, and I said f—, we’re [the] organizer, and he’s our runner, help him, he’s just in pain, help him come into the group, you know, to catch the group,” Hauptman recalled.

“And then the sporting director said, ‘You mean this one?’ I said yes, this one. He said, ‘He rode the group.’

“He was late in maturity, he was smaller, but even though he was really small he was competitive.”

Aside from his physical abilities, those close to Pogacar believe it was his mentality and seemingly impenetrable calm that contributed to his rapid rise.

Australian Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) befriended Pogacar when he and Zigart moved to Monaco. It was before Pogacar’s emphatic debut on the 2020 Tour, during which he won the yellow jersey from Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) on the penultimate stage, with a breathtaking time trial that his countryman could only watch in disbelief.

“I had seen him ride a little, with his fiancée, now, and I just messaged him on Instagram, saying if you wanna go for a ride because he didn’t look like he had much of friends in town,” Matthews said of the Tour, where the pair battled it out for stage wins this month.

In the eye of the storm: Tadej Pogacar is already a double winner of the Tour at 23.

In the eye of the storm: Tadej Pogacar is already a double winner of the Tour at 23.Credit:PA

“I would say he is shy. When you get to know him he is very outspoken and a louder person, but when you first meet him he is very quiet and keeps to himself.

Matthews is a car enthusiast and was not taking part in the 2020 Tour, so when Pogacar told him that if he won a stage he wanted to buy his dream automobile, a Porsche, the 2017 green jersey champion was on board for help.

“When he won his first stage, I said, ‘OK now, should I start looking for Porsches?'” Matthews recalled.

“He said, ‘Yeah, yeah, start the search. And then he won another, and another, and then he won the overall.

Australian Michael Matthews kisses Tadej Pogacar.

Australian Michael Matthews kisses Tadej Pogacar.Credit:Getty Images

“I said, OK, which Porsche now? I’m kind of, I don’t know which one to look for anymore because there’s a pretty wide range and when we won the Tour de France and a lot of stages, yeah, the fork… “

Pogacar, with his earnings, founded a team of young Slovenian cyclists called Pogi Team, but he also bought a very nice car.

“It’s actually in my garage right now. I can watch it more than him because he has no parking lot,” Matthews said.

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When we talk about him to those close to Pogacar, we feel comfortable. The shy little boy with an incredible drive and ability to recover quickly from strenuous exertion, is also mature beyond his years, and it is evident that he is respectful and respected.

“If I could look back, at his age, I was also talented enough when I was his age, to do great things, I wish I had the same basics as him,” Matthews said.

“He’s now won the Tour de France twice and pretty much every other race on the calendar, but he’s still fair, he just gets the job done, and the other things around cycling, which he doesn’t really focus on. ; just being with his friends, with his family and his bike.

Basically, Pogacar loves cycling, as a passion, a hobby, an occupation, and doesn’t take refuge in setbacks for long – probably because there are few of them.

“Even if he’s not having the best day on the bike, he’s not making the numbers he thought, or he thinks he should, he’s still trying to find something good about it,” Zigart said.

Tadej Pogacar celebrates his overall victory in last year's Tour de France, his second victory in a row.

Tadej Pogacar celebrates his overall victory in last year’s Tour de France, his second victory in a row.Credit:PA

“It’s always looking forward, what more he can do, how he can show what he’s got. If he’s having a bad day, he’s just like ‘OK, tomorrow I’m going to have a good one and go for it”.

Pogacar put that into practice after he and his COVID-19-hit squad cracked under the pressure of a Jumbo-Visma assault on the Col du Granon queen stage, where he lost the yellow jersey to Vingaard.

The Dane finished second in the Tour last year and the Dutch side supporting him this season have superstar power in numbers and are using that advantage to win. Vingegaard after stage 13 on Friday was leading the general classification, with Pogacar second, two minutes and 22 seconds behind, and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) third at 2:26.

As the Tour left the Alps and the roads began to level out, Pogacar had, playfully, like a kid telling a joke, or in this case making one, pondered what was wrong with the Col du Granon where he showed himself to be human.

When asked why he snapped, Pogacar replied: “I can’t tell you.” There was a brief pause before he happily continued, “No, I’m telling you!”

He thought he had made a tactical error, responding too much too soon to Jumbo-Visma’s masterful play. The fact that there are only five teammates left after UAE Team Emirates lost a string of riders and team staff to positive COVID-19 tests did not enter into his estimate. public.

As always, Pogacar was focused forward, until the next showdown loomed on the horizon.

“It’s going to be amazing, I think, to see this battle between the top five [on general classification]. The way we play in the Pyrenees is going to be interesting,” said Pogacar.