Tadej Pogačar continues to transcend the limits of a Tour de France winner

With Tour of Flanders victory ticked off, it’s hard to bet against him adding the two remaining Monuments to his palmarès in the years to come

Tadej Pogacar on the way to Tour of Flanders victory 2023
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As is often the case in elite sport, particularly boxing, athletes have a tendency to regularly lay out grand statements of intent relating to certain goals or targets they intend on meeting. However, being prepared to do so also risks things spectacularly blowing up in your face.

Whether it’s a major Champions League clash, or a prize Las Vegas fight, you need to be confident in your own ability if you’re going to publicly lay out your game plan. Not only does it risk exposing your intentions to your rivals, it also risks scrutiny if it goes horribly wrong.

The same applies to winning arguably cycling’s toughest Monument.

Before ‘De Ronde’ got underway, Tadej Pogačar made clear that in order to win the Tour of Flanders, he would need to arrive in Oudenaarde alone. A risky move, although not if you’ve got the firepower to back it up.  

After being outfoxed by Mathieu van der Poel 12 months ago, it felt somewhat inevitable that Pogačar would return to Flanders in the best form possible this year, and this time there would be no need for a final sprint to decide the winner. The race would already be long sewn up.

As the race played out, Pogačar stayed true to his pre-race assessment, and there was a certain sense of defiance about each of his attacks as he looked to slowly weaken Wout van Aert and Van der Poel. He would simply not allow a similar finale to 2022, this time there was no way anyone was coming to the line with him.  

Each time the trio of favourites reached the vicious double header of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs, it was evident that the UAE Emirates man had done his homework. As the longest section of climbing in the race, this was the point to make his mark.

Van Aert had been distanced, and the Slovenian then slowly softened up his remaining challengers, before breaking them on the final ascent. When the elastic finally snapped, it snapped in style. 

Pogačar’s final knockout punch on the Kwaremont had enough bite to rival a Muhammed Ali right hook. It was devastating, it was simply unanswerable, and after surviving the first few blows, there was no way Van der Poel was getting back up off the canvas this time. 

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Tom Thewlis

Tom has been writing for Cycling Weekly since 2022 and his news stories, rider interviews and features appear both online and in the magazine. 

Since joining the team, he has reported from some of professional cycling's biggest races and events including the Tour de France and the World Championships in Glasgow. He has also covered races elsewhere across the world. 

As well as on the ground reporting, Tom writes race reports from the men's and women's WorldTour and helps with coverage of UK domestic cycling.