To be asked about the legitimacy of your performance is par for course as a Tour de France leader, but Tadej Pogačar’s manager has dismissed the idea that the current yellow jersey is riding better than ever before.
The defending champion leads the race by 5-18 from Rigoberto Urán after 11 stages, and despite showing some signs of weaknesses during Wednesday’s double ascent of Mont Ventoux, the Slovenian looks a near-certainty to claim a second yellow jersey.
His performances in the weekend’s Alpine stages were so dominating that Pogačar has been asked in recent days how he can prove that he is a clean athlete, the sport still scarred by its haunted past.
UAE Team Emirates’ general manager Joxean Fernández Matxin waved off suggestions of foul play, however, pointing out a number of factors that has resulted in Pogačar having such a huge lead with 10 stages remaining.
“I look at his 2020 numbers and they are practically the same as now,” Matxin told Spanish newspaper AS (opens in new tab). “And also to the tests they are subjected to. But I’m not going to enter [into the debate].
“Tadej is possibly at a very similar level to the previous year. However, the crashes and the nerves at the start did not affect him but it did [Primož] Roglič or [Geraint] Thomas. It’s meant a big gap has opened up to the other favourites.”
Roglič quit the Tour at the weekend as a result of his stage three crash, while Thomas is now working on behalf of Ineos Grenadiers’ leader Richard Carapaz, who sits one second off a podium in fourth place and 5-33 behind Pogačar.
The mountains of the Pyrenees await the peloton in the coming week and Matxin is confident that if his star rider doesn’t succumb to any crashes or illnesses he will hold onto the lead.
“There’s a need to control the race and avoid mishaps and crashes so that nothing extra-sporting happens.
“We have the peace of mind of a job well done and a considerable margin to the other rivals.
“In the Alpine stages, of the last 14 riders [in the front group], we had four. The squad is solid and we have total confidence in Tadej and Tadej has confidence in his team-mates and Tadej in Tadej.”
Matxin also confirmed that after the Tour, Pogačar will race the Vuelta a España, that begins in mid-August.
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