Sidestepping the sophomore slump

How Tadej Pogacar's talent was spotted from an early age and developed in to a 21-year-old Tour winner.

Tadej Pogacar
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There's a story that UAE-Team Emirates DS and former Slovenian pro Andrej Hauptmann likes to tell about Tadej Pogacar. Hauptmann had attended a race and caught sight of a young lad trailing half a lap off the back of a pack of riders much older than him.

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Feeling for the youngster, he suggested to the race officials they end his misery and pull him out.

"You've got the wrong idea," Hauptmann was told. "The kid's not half a lap down — he's half a lap up!"

Hauptmann, who was also head coach for Slovenian cycling team at that point, quickly realised he was on to something.

"When I was his coach when he was a junior in the Ljubljana team, he was already special," he said last week. "When someone is young, you cannot predict how far they can come. But that time, I already knew that he would be something really, really special."

Tadej Pogacar time trialling feature introduction

(Image credit: Future)

This weekend, that eager youngster will take the start line of the Tour de France in Brest on Saturday as the reigning champion and cast-iron favourite.

His UAE-Team Emirates outfit is even stronger than it was last year with the signing of Polish climber Rafal Majka and another revelation of the 2020 race Marc Hirschi. Equally the Jumbo-Visma squad of his main Tour contender and fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic looks to have waned, with Steven Kruijswijk's apparent lack of form compounded by the loss of Tom Dumoulin.

You can read the rest of the feature on Tadej Pogacar in this week's issue of Cycling Weekly magazine - 124 pages previewing the 2021 Tour de France. You can order this issue online or take out a subscription and get it delivered each week.

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After cutting his teeth on local and national newspapers, James began at Cycling Weekly as a sub-editor in 2000 when the current office was literally all fields. 

Eventually becoming chief sub-editor, in 2016 he switched to the job of full-time writer, and covers news, racing and features.

A lifelong cyclist and cycling fan, James's racing days (and most of his fitness) are now behind him. But he still rides regularly, both on the road and on the gravelly stuff.