Don't sleep on Tadej Pogačar, he's a serious World Championship contender

The Slovenian is supremely confident at the moment, and so he should be

Tadej Poagacar wins Montreal GP 2022
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the final 200m of Sunday’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal, Tadej Pogačar opens up his sprint. He has wrestled a five-rider move clear and now, alongside his fellow escapees, he’s there contesting the win. 

On his wheel sits Wout van Aert, perhaps the best bike racer in the world. A flat run-in like this is the Belgian’s bread and butter. The finish line draws nearer and spectators watch on, waiting for the Jumbo-Visma rider to come flying round the outside. 

Except he doesn’t. He can’t. As Van Aert throws his bike across the line, Pogačar is already sitting upright in his saddle. He claps his hands together and punches the air triumphantly. The Slovenian, a two-time Tour de France winner, has just beaten Van Aert in a sprint. And it looked surprisingly comfortable, too. 

Pogačar’s kick was vicious and powerful, but it wasn’t the most impressive part of his victory. Instead, it was his confidence that really caught the eye. In a reduced group with one of the peloton’s strongest sprinters, few would be foolish enough to drag him to the line.

Pogačar, however, is no fool. “I believed and I gave it everything and I succeeded,” he said after the race.

Sensing he had the edge on Van Aert, the Slovenian lashed mercilessly down the finishing straight, like a shark at the first sniff of blood. It’s this cold-blooded racing style that has come to characterise him in one-day events, even if it hasn’t always paid off. 

Pogacar at Tour of Flanders 2022

Pogačar outfoxed at the Tour of Flanders 2022. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This year’s Tour of Flanders was one to forget for Pogačar. Having powered ahead on the Oude Kwaremont, the UAE Team Emirates rider found himself alone at the front of the race with only Mathieu van der Poel for company. The duo rode together into the finale, and though the chasers were bearing down on them, Pogačar sat up and refused to take a turn. As a result, he ended up coming fourth in what should have been two-up sprint. 

In Montréal, Pogačar made sure to avoid the same mistake. He rode intelligently, conserving energy in the final kilometres, before taking matters into his own hands and dealing the fatal blow himself.

Due to his focus on stage-racing, Pogačar’s killer instinct in one-day events is often overlooked. Earlier this year, he became the first Tour de France champion to win Strade Bianche, adding another major one-day title to the two Monuments he collected the year before in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia. The Slovenian, just 23 years-old, already boasts a trophy cabinet that most classics specialists would be proud of. 

By virtue of his palmarès, Pogačar should not only be considered as a favourite for this month’s World Championships, but also as one of the peloton’s most talented one-day racers. 

“We can go to Australia with confidence,” Pogačar said of Slovenia after his victory in Montréal. “I hope for a good day in the Worlds. It’s a different course than today, it’s also a longer race and so it’s going to be really hard.”

As it stands, all eyes remain on Van Aert for the win in Wollongong, and understandably so. But with less than two weeks to go until the men’s road race, Pogačar is in form, self-assured, and, crucially, he knows he’s got the beating of the Belgian. 

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.