Tadej Pogacar Q&A: I could never have imagined a Giro d'Italia win as beautiful as this

UAE Team Emirates crushed the field on his way to the biggest overall margin of victory since 1965

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Tadej Pogacar blew away his rivals to win the Giro d'Italia on his debut in the race, winning by the biggest overall margin since 1965.

The UAE Team Emirates rider had been in the leader's pink jersey since winning Stage 2, the first of his six stage successes, and finished the ceremonial 125-kilometre Stage 21 safely in the bunch as Tim Merlier won the stage.

The Slovenian, 25, reflects on his stunning success in the famous race.

Can you put into words the experience and feeling you have after winning the Giro d’Italia?

“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet to be honest. I think once I get home and spend some time recovering after a week or so it will sink in. My first time in Rome. An awesome city, wearing the Pink jersey after Primoz [Roglic] won last year, it’s amazing to have two Slovenian consecutive winners of the Giro. We as Slovenians could never have imagined this, so we can be very proud, and we look to keep progressing and getting better.”

Thinking back to the start line of Stage 1 – could you have possibly imagined winning the GC by 9 minutes and 56 seconds?

“No never. It is a race with such history, such importance, and we were competing with some of the best guys in the world. I had lots of faith and confidence in our guys to produce a strong result over the three weeks of racing. But to win in the style that we did and working together so well, no I could never have imagined this. It was beautiful.”

If you had to pinpoint one moment that stands out from the rest, which would that be?

“Every race, the more experience you get the better. You grow into a race, especially when it lasts across three weeks. It is hard to pick one moment as there were so many special moments – with my teammates, with the fans, with my competitors. It was a beautiful race full of beautiful moments and maybe we will re-live them in the future.”

This was obviously an incredibly special period for you. How would you summarize the three weeks?

“It was a fantastic moment and experience. It was crazy with the atmosphere. The Tifosi, fans from all around the world, with a lot of Slovenian fans as well, meant I could enjoy this with great emotion. It was super cool, super nice, the organisation was pretty good, and I really enjoyed it with the team. All in all, it was a really great experience.”

Taking you back to the Queen’s stage – you mentioned that this stage in particular was one that you all had highlighted many months ago to try and target a victory. How amazing was this stage to win atop of Livigno?

“Winning this stage was an amazing moment for me and for all of the guys. It was a super hard stage, with some super strong guys in the breakaway riding really hard. My teammates did an incredible job to keep the breakaway under control, and then when Rafa [Majka] produced a big turn for me, I gave it everything to get the win. I’m super happy that I could win the queen stage in Livigno, one of my favourite places in Italy.”

How good was the effort that each rider put in to work together across some really brutal stages in order for you to come out victorious?

“None of this would be possible without my teammates. The way they work every single day, this Giro d’Italia is a win for us all and for them. Also to the backroom team and technical team. They are the very best, and over three long weeks, the help and expertise they give us on the bike is really amazing.”

How does it feel to have the trust and belief of all of your teammates and their commitment to keep working so hard?

“We had a super strong group of guys here. We have all ridden together in the past in different races, so we knew each other’s skills and strengths and we kept pushing super hard every single day in trying to achieve our goal. It is a joy to ride with my teammates, I love being with them on and off the bike, so this is really special for us all.”

Stage 20, finishing atop of Monte Grappa was a stage that seemed really important to you.

“It was a beautiful stage for me. I wanted to get the win for all of my teammates and the team who have put so much into this Giro. I really felt we deserved to finish with an amazing moment like this after three really hard weeks of racing. Wearing the Pink jersey a lot is not always easy, so I wanted to ensure we finished this Giro in the best possible way. I’m super happy and proud of our performance.”

Not only were you riding with the support of your teammates, but also of the Italian and Slovenian fans who seemed to be with you every step of the way. Could you feel that amazing support on the bike and how does that push you to keep performing?

“It was a crazy experience throughout three weeks in Italy. Crazy fans, crazy racing, and I’m so happy to also have good legs, so I’m delighted with how the Giro went. It was beautiful racing.

“There were a lot of kids and fans throughout the race, even when the parkour was 200km long. I was really happy to see all that. Days like on Monte Grappa with the young boy and the water bottle, this is the beauty of our sport. It was a really nice moment.”

As this achievement starts to sink in, what does the next couple of weeks look like for Tadej Pogacar?

“Now I’ll take a few days to switch off and relax, and then slowly rebuild and restart to try to keep these legs and improve as much as possible. I have been away from my home for a long time now, so it is important for me to spend some time there and switch off for a short period. We’ll see how the sensations are when we start again on the bike soon.”

Looking ahead to the Tour de France, how much confidence will you take from winning the Giro?

“As a rider, I felt super strong and comfortable during the three long weeks on the bike. I was in the spot where I want to be so I can take a lot of confidence with how I felt on the bike and my overall performance. After a good rest, I can try to work to improve this feeling, so I think I’m on a really good path for the next part of the season.

"But, it’s not all about the Tour. I’ve loved the Giro, and it’s about how you manage your life and where you find the happiness. I don’t think you can just solely have one big goal for the season. For me it is better to have a diverse program and go along to have a strong calendar, a good life, and try to enjoy the races.”

Lastly, a word to the fans here in the UAE who have been supporting the team incredibly all season, but especially throughout the Giro. What would you say to them?

“When I stood on the winner’s podium in Rome, I had the flag of Slovenia and the flag of the UAE wrapped around me. We felt the support of all of our fans in the UAE all season, but also here in the Giro. We are super proud to represent the UAE and will keep pushing hard this season for all of our fans.”

Updated: May 30, 2024, 9:53 AM