Tadej Pogačar will not defend his Liège-Bastogne-Liège title on Sunday, after a family emergency forced him to return to Slovenia from Belgium.
The UAE-Team Emirates rider will be replaced in the lineup by Brandon McNulty, meaning there will be a different winner of La Doyenne this year.
In a tweet, he explained, “Sadly I won't be at the start of [Liège-Bastogne-Liège] tomorrow.”
“It's been a tough few days but I'd like to thank everybody for their understanding. A special thank you to [UAE Team Emirates] & especially to Mauro Gianetti and Team President Matar for their support in this situation."
Pogačar pulled out of a press conference scheduled for Friday after he flew home to Slovenia from Belgium to support his fiancée, and fellow cyclist, Urška Žigart after she went through a family emergency.
On Thursday, Žigart said on Instagram that her mother had died, and Pogačar is thought to have headed home to be with his fiancée and her family.
“Life is not fair sometimes. It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I share with you this news today. My mom was my best friend and the most important person in my life,” Žigart said on Instagram.
Pogačar won Liège last year in part of an incredible season which saw him win another Monument, Il Lombardia, as well as his second Tour de France. So far in 2022 he has won Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico, as well as impressing at the Tour of Flanders.
While he finished 12th at La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, he would have been expected to produce his best form for the next Monument in the calendar, the fourth of the year.
Pogačar would have headed out of Liège as one of the favourites for Sunday's race, with a supporting team of Marc Soler, George Bennett, Diego Ulissi, Marc Hirschi, Jan Polanc and Vegard Stake Laengen.
Despite the addition of McNulty, the team will likely now go all in for Hirschi, who came second in the 2020 edition. The Swiss rider finished in the top ten at the Amstel Gold Race a fortnight ago.
With no Primož Roglič either, with the Jumbo-Visma rider missing out to injury, there will be no repeat of the last two editions, which were both won by Slovenians. Matej Mohorič could continue the Balkan trend on Sunday, with the Bahrain-Victorious rider looking good at Paris-Roubaix last week.
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