Tadej Pogačar: 'Maybe today was payback for yesterday,' as he mauls Tour de France competition on first mountain test

The Slovenian says he spotted weakness in Ineos before going on the attack, laying waste to the rest of the field

Tadej Pogačar
(Image credit: Getty)

In the Gulf of Mexico this morning a fire raged on the surface of the ocean, a gas leak from a malfunctioning pipeline bursting into life. Before long, however, the flames had been brought under control and eventually put out.

8,000 kilometres away another fire raged, just as spectacular and scary, as Tadej Pogačar attacked the Tour de France. Yet no matter how much rain poured from the heavens nor any smothering from his opponents over the past two days could extinguish the defending champion.

Mark Cavendish said he had fire in his eyes as he took his comeback victory on stage four, well Pogačar had fire in his belly, taking off on the penultimate climb of the day, Richard Carapaz following but soon falling away, the Slovenian picking off each and every member of the breakaway bar the stage winner Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Victorious).

Of course, he held no grudge with Teuns, a worthy winner who was the latest to break down in tears after the finish, his grandfather passing away just before the start in Brest. The riders Pogačar had a bone to pick with were his GC rivals, who rode hard against UAE Team Emirates on the expansive and flat stage seven, making them suffer all day to maintain a respectable gap.

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"Yeah, maybe it was payback for yesterday," Pogačar said, the killer inside the 22-year-old bubbling to the surface, snapping the neck of the peloton in one swift move.

"After yesterday’s stage, where everyone was racing against us, I went all in today to make a gap. They will try to take the time off me, today I had the opportunity to gain time."

Pogačar protests that he hasn't killed the Tour just yet, but he of course has to show humility, after the stage five time trial UAE Team Emirates were already professing respect for their competition - arrogance will get them nowhere - and presumably they knew what was to come in the mountains.

Tadej Pogačar

(Image credit: Getty)

"I did not kill the Tour, it’s still a long way to go. Today I had a gap, maybe tomorrow someone else will do that. I did not kill the Tour, sorry."

What was the apology for? That he can't admit just how dominant he is looking in this race with two weeks remaining?

Today's attack wasn't necessarily planned, Pogačar says, but he sensed weakness in Ineos as they tackled the Col de Romme, and thus set off. Carapaz chased in earnest but had no hope in containing the defending champion.

"After the first hour and a half, it was such a tough race already, a lot of attacks, and after it calmed down the breakaway went," Pogačar recapped.

"And then the first of the three last climbs I could see that Ineos didn’t feel the best. I saw how they talked to each other and I said let’s try to keep the pressure on them, and then the second to last climb I decided to break it and in the end it worked. Then I paced myself to the finish."

Pogačar started his first press conference in the yellow jersey in impatient mood: "Let's go," he said to the ASO employee, the youngster trying to hurry things along - it looks like he'll have a lot more of these procedurals before he gets to Paris.

"He said he hopes I take yellow from him today," Pogačar laughed, speaking about what Mathieu van der Poel was saying to him at the start of the day.

"We knew from last year at the Dauphiné," was the dismissive answer to how he rode up the Col de la Colombière in his big chainring, if he knew he could do that due to a recon in the lead-up to the race.

"Attacking is the best defence and it went well, really well," Pogačar said of his modus operandi, and although he doesn't think he'll be on the offensive every mountain stage, he hasn't exactly ruled it out. 

"I don’t know if every mountain stage I’ll be attacking, probably not, because this first week was really demanding and tomorrow we already have a super hard stage. We'll try our best to defend and ride defensively from now on."

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.