Pogačar: "To win each Grand Tour is a major goal of mine"

"Cycling is in a really beautiful period"

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) came to the Giro d’Italia, he saw Italy and he conquered, producing one of the most dominant Grand Tour victories in cycling history. At 25 years of age, the Slovenian Champion is no longer the juvenile wonderkid who took the world by storm with his first feats at 20 years old. He's grown into a history-making rider, most recently delivering high-end performances for three weeks in the leader’s pink jersey (maglia rosa) to add a Giro victory to his many other conquests (Tour de France, Il Lombardia, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Ronde van Vlaanderen – Tour des Flandres, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Tirreno-Adriatico, Paris-Nice...). Cherished by the tifosi, he can turn to the major goals still ahead of him in an already extraordinary season.

The overall win, 20 days in Rosa, six stage wins… What are you most proud of after this first Giro?

Tadej Pogačar (T.P.): It’s been an amazing journey. When we arrived in Torino nobody could have told me it would be like this. Of course we hoped and dreamed of winning but to take six stages and wear the maglia rosa for 20 stages all over Italy has just been such an unbelievable experience. Something I will never forget.

What was the most challenging part in building this triumph?

T.P.: Aside from the battle on the road I suppose the greatest challenge is everything that surrounds the maglia rosa and the responsibilities that go along with that. All the extra interviews and protocols take a lot of energy day after day but it’s something you get used to also. It’s also part of the job and something I understand.

How do you look at your authority on the race and on the peloton?

T.P.: Looking back I had some really nice moments and was able to enjoy myself a lot on the bike. I was fortunate to arrive at this Giro with close to perfect preparation and so was able to perform how I wanted and be attacking and aggressive and go for victories. My teammates played a huge hand in this as without them none of this would have been possible.

"Cycling is in a really beautiful period"

A couple of years ago, you said “I want to enjoy the moment, I don’t care about making history”. What has changed in your mind?

T.P.: I would say I more or less feel the same. I prefer not to chase records, but new challenges and especially doing races I have never done before is very appealing to me. It’s no secret I wanted to win this Giro, and to take stages in the maglia rosa has also been special. I'll let the historians take care of the records.

What is history to you?

T.P.: I think it’s something quite hard to define... Maybe it's something that goes beyond just athletic ability and something more of human quality.

Do you also have references outside of cycling? Sportspersons that you look at as greats and that inspire you in one way or the other…

T.P.: I would say I have a general interest and appreciation of all sports. Any sport done at the highest level is always an impressive sight to behold. This summer I hope to go to the Olympics and maybe I'll be able to see some athletics or something, it could be nice, if I have time.

What part do your rivals play in the building of your own history?

T.P.: Yes, I think cycling is in a really beautiful period and I have had some beautiful battles with some excellent riders. Hopefully we can see another great show at the Tour. The riders definitely play a big part in making the race, not just the parcours. I feel in cycling we have a nice mix of personalities and talents in the bunch which has been very entertaining.

"The Tour and the UCI Worlds are two massive goals"

Two riders achieved the Giro-Tour double and went on to win the UCI World Championships the same year (Eddy Merckx in 1974, Stephen Roche in 1987). Do you feel up to the challenge?

T.P.: I don’t get ahead of myself just yet. Obviously the Tour and the UCI Worlds are two massive goals for me. Not just this year but each year. I don’t feel too much pressure, I’m still pretty young but I have a big hunger to win them some day.

There are also feats that have never been achieved in cycling… Do you have any groundbreaking performance you’d want to achieve?

T.P.: We will see… As I’ve said I like new challenges to keep things fresh, so I’m not closed to anything. But I am also realistic to know it is not a simple case of turning up and winning: cycling is a sport with many specialities, and different races and terrains favour different athletes and different preparations. Ask any rider and I think to take any professional victory is a big thing and you need to be in amazing form, no matter what the race.

What about a Giro-Tour-Vuelta treble?

T.P.: For sure I can say it is not on the cards this year. To win each Grand Tour is a major goal of mine some day, but to do it all in the same year... Maybe that's too crazy.