UAE-Team Emirates will not use train-like tactics to help Tadej Pogačar: 'We will not contract champions to work as domestiques'

Pogačar is the outright favourite to win the Tour de France for a third year in a row

UAE-Team Emirates
(Image credit: Getty)

The general manager of UAE-Team Emirates, Joxean Fernández Matxin, has insisted that the team will not change tactics and employ a train-like formation to better support Tadej Pogačar.

In spite of Pogačar's successes in the past three seasons, including two Tour de France titles, much has been levelled against his team for isolating him at crucial moments.

They have attempted to rectify that somewhat this winter with the acquisitions of Marc Soler, João Almeida and George Bennett, but Matxin rebuffed the suggestion that the trio will be used to imitate tactics seen most recently by Bennett's former team Jumbo-Visma and previously by Ineos Grenadiers.

"We have no doubt that we are not going to utilise that tactic," Matxin told Cycling Weekly. "We're not going to use the tactics or strategies of Jumbo, Ineos or any other team. We simply want to be UAE-Team Emirates."

The Spaniard played down the accusation that Pogačar is often left exposed, and said that riders like Almeida and Soler would not be solely used as a Pogačar's last man in the mountains.

"What is clear is that there have been a lot of times when Tadej has been with a lot of teammates," he said.

"And there's also been times, the [Tour] stage to Tignes for example, when he attacked and for the three riders around him... well, they couldn't follow him but no-one could.

"I think to be aside the best rider in the world is complicated because to be alongside him it means you have to be one of the best riders in the world, too.

"We will not contract champions to work as domestiques. We sign really important riders and they know from the beginning what their task is. 

"Some like [recently-signed sprinter Pascal] Ackermann, for example, his task is to win. Other riders know they are there to help others win. The tasks are very clear.

"It's been a good winter because we have reinforced the team in practically all areas, but above all what we have done is tried to balance the team to how we wanted to and how we needed to. 

"We've been able to count on some of the best cyclists which is the most important thing."

Pogačar will begin his season at February's UAE Tour, with Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Slovenia his only other scheduled stage races before he attempts to win a third consecutive Tour.

With expectations around the 23-year-old sky-high, Matxin turned philosophical when addressing the question of how he and the team should manage increased scrutiny.

"Pressure? No. This is not pressure," he continued. "When someone works in what is their passion, they have a contract that is economically excellent, they call that a privilege, not pressure.

"Pressure is worrying if €1,000 is enough for the family for the coming month, of if you have Covid and you have to be in hospital. That is pressure.

>>> 'He thinks that his ceiling is to be better than Tadej': UAE-Team Emirates' wonderkid Juan Ayuso wows team and Tadej Pogačar during training camp

"To ride our bikes in the way we are doing right now, that is a privilege. You don't call it pressure.

"There will be moments when he [Tadej] wins and we will be happy, and moments when he doesn't win but still we'll be happy because we know this is not mathematics. We are sportspeople.

"We have to love people, trust in them and treat them as humans. When it goes bad, we fight so things improve. Simple, easy, and we all know that's how we do it."

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