UAE Team Emirates chairman Matar Suhail Al Yabhouni has hailed Tadej Pogacar as a “cycling legend in the making” after the young Slovenian completed back-to-back Tour de France victories.
Pogacar, 22, grabbed the yellow jersey by winning the time trial on Day 5 before adding two more stage victories en route to retaining his Tour de France title at Paris on Sunday.
“Tadej was in a class of his own against some of the world’s leading teams and riders. His performance in retaining his title was more convincing than his triumph last year,” Al Yabhouni told The National.
“Tadej has all the hallmarks of becoming a cycling legend. We saw his potential very early and he rubber-stamped our opinions in the Tour de France last year followed by his victory in the UAE Tour.
“As a team we are always looking at the present and future, and Tadej fits into that bill perfectly. We extended his contract until 2026 to keep him focused and motivated on his job.”
Pogacar’s contract with the UAE Team Emirates was extended by five years after he won the season opening UAE Tour in February.
A five-year contract extension was something unheard of in the cycling world but that’s the benchmark the UAE Team Emirates has laid out for the rest of the World Tour teams.
“We have ambitions as a team to win all the important races in the world and also want to promote our government’s healthy lifestyles programme through cycling,” Al Yabhouni said.
Expressing his happiness on the team’s success, the UAE Team Emirates boss added: “Winning the Tour de France was a nice Eid gift from the team to our leadership, people and our fans around the world,” he added.
“We are a team with ambitions of more success. We want to keep building on the successes we have already achieved. Winning the Tour de France two years in a row is a massive step forward to keep the UAE Team Emirates’ name in the forefront in world cycling.”
Aref Al Awani, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council and an ardent fan of the UAE Team Emirates, was all praise for the high levels the team has reached in a very short period of time.
“It is a clear indication of the professionalism, planning and organisation, and the team’s goals to climb the podiums and raise the UAE flag at various international and continental competitions,” he said.
“Tadej was outstanding throughout the race and most credit goes to him for replicating his success of last year with a more convincing performance this time around.
“But there are many people to thank for the team’s success — from the nation’s leadership to the team management and technical staff, and of course the riders.
“We couldn’t have achieved what we have achieved in a very short period of time without a committed and professional unit in place. It has been a short but successful journey, and obviously, the team wants to keep improving and performing on the world stage.”
The UAE Team Emirates was established in 2017 but their rise has been remarkable with the recruitment of an ever-growing number of leading cyclists year after year from around the world.
And for Pogacar, there is no time to rest. He is off to the Tokyo Games where he will compete in the road race for Slovenia.