Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar's coach confident the UAE Team Emirates star will enjoy a special title defence

In this week's column, coach Inigo San Millan says: 'I think we are well on our way to cementing our place as one of the best cycling teams in the world'

The biggest race of the season is just around the corner and everyone at UAE Team Emirates could not be more ready for another successful Tour de France.

As Tadej Pogacar's coach, this has been a focus for us since the off-season and he is in optimum shape to retain his title, starting Saturday.

It was an amazing feeling when Tadej won last year, he has worked exceptionally hard and followed our training plans to the letter.

He is a very talented rider, but we couldn’t have envisaged how well the race went 12 months ago. We always knew he was good enough to be at least contesting for the podium, but to win it was extra special.

I have been working with Tadej for three years and speak to him every day. We don’t just chat about cycling, but about different things. I think it’s important to have that kind of a relationship, riders always respond better when they respect and feel comfortable with their coach.

As Covid restrictions start to ease I have been able to be at more races with Tadej. I was with him for the Tour of the Basque and I’m currently spending 21 days with him at his altitude training camp before the Tour.

Even when I am not at the races, as soon as Tadej enters the bus after a race, I can see the race data on the computer and can provide feedback instantaneously.

In the last 25 years, I haven’t just worked with cyclists, I have worked with basketball teams, football teams, American football teams, hockey teams and Olympic medalists across many sports. In all my experience and after working with a plethora of world-class athletes, I genuinely believe that Tadej has what it takes to be one of the best athletes in history and I will do all that I can to help him achieve that.

I wear many hats due to my several roles in and outside the team – I am head of the training staff at UAE Team Emirates and as well as Tadej, I coach Marc Hirschi, Davide Formolo, Diego Ulissi, Brandon McNulty, Youssif Mirza, Rui Costa and our latest signing Juan Ayuso, who at just 18 years old is a tremendous talent and someone that we have high hopes for moving forward.

Cycling teams are not usually known for their long-term planning. At UAE Team Emirates though, we are part of a bigger project and the signing of Juan shows that we’re not just looking at the season ahead but building something for years to come.

During the races, I tend to be based in one of the feeding points, so I give sports drinks and food to the riders. During time trials, I like to be in the car to observe Tadej personally. Then, after the race, I analyse the data and give my feedback in the same manner that I would do from home but face to face.

Away from cycling, I am a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine where I do clinical and research work in cellular metabolism, especially in diabetes, cardiometabolic disease and cancer. In the last two years, we have been working very hard and have made new discoveries in cancer and Type 2 diabetes which we will be publishing later this year.

I am also a cyclist, love the sport and I am very excited about the future of the team.

UAE Team Emirates have already written themselves in the history books and the support we receive from the leaders of the team has been instrumental in us being able to leave a legacy in cycling.

I think we are well on our way to cementing our place as one of the best cycling teams in the world.

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