'I've crashed six times this year': Tadej Pogačar feels stress of yellow as he answers questions of doubt

Heavy is the head that pulls on the yellow jersey as Pogačar readies himself for Ventoux challenge

Tadej Pogačar
(Image credit: Getty)

For the first time on the rest day, Tadej Pogačar was asked the question of whether cycling can trust the dominance he's displayed so far at the Tour de France, to which the yellow jersey replied: "I think we have a lot of doping controls that prove [the doubters] wrong."

It's customary, given the sport's past, for the leader of the yellow jersey to be asked about his legitimacy, and when asked again at the post-race press conference after stage 10, Pogačar said the gaps he's achieving are due to his rivals having crashed earlier in the race and that if he opened up his files to the public, that would have the unwanted effect of helping his competition.

"Yesterday I was asked this question, I said the facts, I don’t know what to do, to do anything else to prove my innocence, I don’t know," he said. "I'm dominating this race but if you look at the times on the climbs you see why there are such gaps. The field after the crashes the first few days is just not the level it’s supposed to be. [On the other hand] I didn’t suffer any crashes.

"I would love to open up my files but then everyone sees your files and then they can use this against you in the race so it’s a little bit more difficult than that. But I can tell you I push good watts and that’s why I'm in first."

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Pogačar took the yellow jersey last year at such late notice that we didn't get a chance to understand him as the leader of the Tour. This year he's grown into the jersey as the race progresses, answering questions with increasing flair and a confidence befitting how he's ridden the 2021 edition so far.

Last week, after the Slovenian won the stage five time trial, a UAE Team Emirates sports director said the only thing standing in the way of Pogačar and defending his yellow jersey was if he crashed, and Pogačar does seem to be one of those riders that always manages to stay upright.

Not so.

"I crashed six times this year," Pogačar reveals. "Crashes can happen so fast. I crashed five times in training this year just by surprise. I also crashed first day in the Tour. Crashes are a part of cycling, everyone in the peloton crashed a few times for sure. I need to be waiting for all the crashes, it’s quite stressful.

"In the bunch sprint I don’t take risks, I make an air bubble around me, so if something happens on the left I go right, on the right I go left, and I have space, so I don’t stress too much," Pogačar explained.

Tomorrow, on Mont Ventoux, Pogačar will face another tough test to his lead, but should he prove as powerful as he has so far in this race, he could replicate Chris Froome's win in yellow on the Giant of Provence in 2013.

"I've been there just once, just for the recon," Pogačar said. "I did two laps of the hard climb, and to just do two times up Mont Ventoux, especially tomorrow, it’s going to be a super hard day. A lot of things can go wrong or well. We’ll see tomorrow and we’re confident."