If Tadej Pogačar had finished his season this year in April, he could still have walked away happy, such was his win-rate, with two stage race wins at Tirreno-Adriatico and the UAE Tour, getting on the right side of his team sponsor from the off, at the underlined by victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. To be frank, had he fully pulled the plug on his career at that point, still aged just 22, he could call it a roaring success by any reasonable objective measure. Unsurprisingly he did no such thing, and there was a lot more to come.
The Slovenian - who has won the Best International Rider in the Cycling Weekly Awards - followed his stellar spring campaign by heading home to the Tour of Slovenia, where he duly won at a canter as he prepared for the Tour de France.
Going into the Tour de France, some wondered whether his inability to win either the road or time trial at the Slovenian nationals was a portent of a rider who was going to struggle to repeat his barn storming performance from the year before. But stage five saw him win the time trial into Laval Espace Mayenne, and already his main rival Primož Roglič was lagging nearly two minutes back on GC after a big crash. Four days later he retired.
If the writing wasn't quite on the wall, someone was at least poised, big fat marker pen in hand.
For the next two weeks, the young Slovenian rode consistently, holding off concerted attempts by Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and the impressive young Dane Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) to overthrow his authority. He even showed a rare glimpse of fallibility on stage 11 to Malaucène, when he was dropped by Vingegaard. But this proved little more than a glitch in the matrix. In fact Pogačar saved the best till last, winning a scintillating brace of Pyrenean summit finishes on stage 17 and 18 just ahead of Vingegaard and Carapaz who, to their credit, pushed the Slovenian all the way to the end.
Pogačar had a lower key second half of the season, but still managed to round it off with victory in a second Monument, Il Lombardia.
"To be recognised by the Cycling Weekly readers is an honour and I’d like to give my gratitude to each one of them," Pogačar said of winning the Best International Rider Award.
He added: "This past season was more than I could have dreamed for and I’m already working hard towards 2022. I hope it can be another great season of cycling for everybody, whether it’s out on the bike or supporting from at home. I wish a good new year to all."
- 5: Annemiek Van Vleuten
- 4: Anna van der Breggen
- 3: Elisa Longo Borghini
- 2: Wout Van Aert
Read more about the amazing stories of the runner's up, in Cycling Weekly magazine, in stores from Thursday, December 9. Subscribe online and get the magazine delivered to your door every week.
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