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Exclusive: Pogacar is like Ronaldo and Messi, he's one of a kind, says Trentin Filed on July 5, 2021
UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia celebrates his yellow jersey on the podium at the end of the ninth stage on Sunday. (AFP)

With 12 stages remaining, UAE Team Emirates' Pogacar will look to maintain his lead and become only the ninth man to defend the Tour de France title

Last year, Tadej Pogacar stole the Tour de France lead from compatriot Primoz Roglic with a breathtaking display in the penultimate stage before finishing the grand race the next day with the biggest trophy in cycling.

Now less than 12 months later, the UAE Team Emirates rider faces the big challenge of protecting his lead, having taken the yellow jersey after the end of the first week of this season’s race.

Such has been Pogacar’s dominance that the pundits are already backing him to defend the Tour de France title.

But with 12 stages remaining in the world’s most gruelling race, Pogacar enters uncharted territory as he faces a test of nerves to hold on to his lead.

Matteo Trentin, Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates teammate, believes the Slovenian will not take things for granted despite taking a two minute, one second lead over Ben O'Connor who jumped to the second position after winning the ninth stage on Sunday.

“For the moment, it looks really good,” Trentin told Khaleej Times when asked about Pogacar’s chances of finishing on top.

“Of course, the Tour de France is a three-week-long race and anything can happen. So I am sure it’s also in his mind that he needs to keep his feet on the ground.

“So, for sure, the team would be concentrating very hard for the next few days to defend the jersey and bring home the title.”

After Monday’s rest day, Trentin, the 31-year-old Italian who won the seventh stage of the Tour de France in 2014, says Pogacar and the team will rise to the challenge when the race resumes on Tuesday.

“We have a lot of riders now already at 5 (5 minutes behind the leader). But this doesn’t mean that it’s over,” he said.

“Yesterday you saw the big breakaway of almost 30 riders, the team was really good in keeping them under control. But when you have a rider like Tadej who is so strong, at the moment, he has shown that he is the best on the climbs.

“Of course, people are going to try to dethrone him from the place he is in. For sure it’s going to be hard, but I think the team is up to the task.”

Having a cool head on your shoulders is the key to maintaining the lead in a long race like the Tour de France, according to Trentin.

“You always need to play cool, you always need to relax as much as you can,” said Trentin.

“If you let the stress of the race get to you, especially in the Tour de France, it will east you from inside because you have so many interviews, so many things to do every time you make a trip to the podium, the doping control.

“So you need to use every single minute of the rest time to relax.”

Trentin then revealed what separates the 22-year-old Pogacar from the rest.

“I think he is one of the few guys you can call special in a sport, like when you see Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi in soccer, (Michael) Jordan, LeBron James or Kobe Bryant in basketball, he’s one of a kind,” Trentin said.

“He’s physically, genetically better than us, that’s the thing. You could see that yesterday (Sunday) and the day before (Saturday), everybody was on the limit, but he was still breathing!”

It’s that natural ability that could see Pogacar become only the ninth man in history to defend the Tour de France title.


Overall Standings

After the ninth stage

1. Tadej Pogacar, Slovenia, UAE Team Emirates (34h 11m 10s)

2. Ben O'Connor, Australia, AG2R Citroën Team (2m 1s behind)

3. Rigoberto Uran, Colombia, EF Education-Nippo (5m 18s behind)

4. Jonas Vingegaard, Denmark, Jumbo-Visma (5m 32s behind)

5. Richard Carapaz, Ecuador, Ineos Grenadiers (5m 33s behind)

6. Enric Mas, Spain, Movistar (5m 47s behind)

7. Wilco Kelderman, Netherlands, Bora-Hansgrohe (5m 58s behind)

8. Alexey Lutsenko, Kazakhstan, Astana-Premier Tech (6m 12s behind)

9. Guillaume Martin, France, Cofidis (7m 2s behind)

10. David Gaudu, France, Groupama-FDJ (7m 22s behind)


Rituraj Borkakoty

A big fan of the Argentina national football team, Rituraj generally writes on sports. But he deeply cherishes the time he spent with his favourite musician from Assam, India, for an interview. And he loves to bring human interest stories to Khaleej Times readers.

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