Tadej Pogačar has defended the tactics and performances of his UAE Team Emirates colleagues at the Tour de France, attempting to deflect criticism onto other teams.
Despite leading the race by more than five minutes from Rigoberto Urán of EF Education – Nippo and with just three days left to re-order the general classification, criticism has been levelled at Pogačar’s team for isolating him in the mountains.
His team, however, protected him well on stage 16 and as he has repeated in the past two-and-a-half weeks he was eager to thank his team-mates.
This time, though, he also wanted to express his confusion at other teams.
“A lot was said against my team, or our team. How weak we are or strong we are,” the 22-year-old said.
“Actually we are the best team here for sure. And other teams here didn’t employ their best tactics yet.
“We didn’t see much action yet from other teams. Maybe they are saving themselves for tomorrow.
“Today we saw EF trying to push at one moment but it was only downhill so that was a bit strange.”
Despite being another climb-laden stage in the Pyrenees on Tuesday, no time gaps appeared between the GC riders and when asked if he believes his rivals are saving themselves for the summit finishes on Wednesday and Thursday, he suggested that could be the case.
“Well for sure they are focusing on tomorrow rather than today,” he added.
“Today was not a profile which would suit big GC gaps. Tomorrow for sure they will try because it’s the hardest day in the Tour.
“If someone feels super good they can make a difference on the guy who feels super bad. I don’t know what the gap might be but we will do everything we can to defend the yellow.”
Two big climbs come before a summit finish at the Col du Portet on Wednesday, offering not just Pogačar’s rivals one of three last chances to reduce their deficit to him, but also the man himself an opportunity to increase his already substantial lead.
The route, though, is unforgiving, him knowing from past experience. “I did a recon of [the routes of] tomorrow and the day after, so I know the climbs,” he revealed.
“It would be better if I hadn’t seen them! [But] I’m not worried about the climbs, but I know it will be a very hard day."
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