Tadej Pogačar’s coach has revealed how remarkable the Tour de France winner’s fitness is, compared to other elite cyclists.
The 22-year-old put in a historic ride in the 2020 Tour, overcoming the odds to take the lead after the stage 20 time trial.
Pogačar, the youngest winner of the Tour since 1904, had to be told to spend a week off the bike in spring because he was in danger of peaking too soon, putting out watts per kilogram his team would expect during the biggest races.
“I realised what he was. He’s exactly what you see on television - a boy with impressive physiological parameters coupled with mental qualities reminiscent of [Miguel] Induráin.
“You could see in the TV images before the time trial how relaxed he was, he never loses his calm.”
According to the coach Pogačar's physiology - his body's use of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and their relationship with fatigue and recovery - put him on "another level" when compared with other elite cyclists.
Pogačar’s remarkable comeback shows his composure in high-pressure situations, as he overturned a minute deficit to Primož Roglič to take over the yellow jersey at the very last opportunity, having lost time at various points in the race.
During his ride the Slovenian, who turns 22 today, rode the 36km course to La Planche Des Belles Filles without a power meter or GPS device, instead riding on feel alone.
His team had an idea of what he was capable of after his performance in the Vuelta a España last year, where he finished on the podium in his debut Grand Tour.
Millán said he lacked around 20 watts to compete for the win in the Vuelta, but that there was obvious room for improvement as he didn’t train at altitude for the event.
But in his preparation, Pogačar was almost too focussed.
Millán said: “In fact in May he was already so fit, with some data of watts per kilo on climbs similar to the ones we wanted him to have on the Tour - I even had to ask him to spend a week off the bike, and he did it.”
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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