Despite struggling to hold onto the leaders, Tadej Pogačar didn't seem concerned about finishing 12th at Flèche Wallonne today (Wednesday) as he shifts his focus to Liège-Bastogne-Liège at the weekend.
Heading up the final ascent of the Mur de Huy, Pogačar seemed in contention to win the Ardennes Classic. However, the UAE Team Emirates rider soon lost pace to the front riders as the incline steepened, falling back on the 10% gradient. This didn't seem to faze the two-time Tour de France winner though.
While he recognised failing to match eventual winner Dylan Teuns' pace on the final part of the climb isn't ideal, Pogačar still expressed his excitement at even battling at the front of the race.
"It's a hard race, hard final [climb] and I did my best," he said after the race.
"I pushed myself over the limit, I came to the front row with 200 metres to go and I was quite excited, thinking 'I'm here, I can do it'. But then the lactic hit me and I barely came to the finish - but it's all good.
"I really like the race - it's a really nice race, really hard. They [the organisers] changed the course a bit this year and it was really tough but I'm more looking forward to the Sunday."
Sunday is when Liège-Bastogne-Liège takes place, and where Pogačar will look to retain his title. The Slovenian managed to win the Monument last year in a sprint, beating Julian Alaphilippe and David Gaudu to the line.
When answering if placing twelfth today and struggling to hold on in the final stages of the race is a problem, Pogačar reiterated his lack of concern at the performance. Instead, he made clear his focus is completely on Sunday's race, while suggesting a supposed poor performance isn't necessarily conducive to how he'll fare at the weekend.
"When you think about it, two years ago I was ninth," Pogačar explains. "It was a similar style finish to this year and in the end of this race I was in the front group so I'm fully motivated for Sunday.
"I don't see this as weakness, in a one-day race this happens - sometimes you cannot do your best day, and sometimes you can do really good. But, I don't think this was any weakness."
Pogačar certainly has a point. After all, he followed up his ninth-place finish at Flèche Wallonne in 2020 by coming third at Liège-Bastogne-Liège just four days later. He will be looking to perform more like he did in 2021 this time around, though.
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