Like many professional riders, Tadej Pogačar is in an off-season limbo. His 2023 campaign ended with a third consecutive victory at Il Lombardia and he has recently enjoyed a few days holiday, yet on Sunday he will ride the Singapore Tour de France criterium and the subsequent Saitama criterium in Japan.
2023 already seems in the past, already described as ‘last season’, while 2024 and the next season is already on the horizon.
The routes of the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France have been revealed and suggestions of Pogačar going for the Giro-Tour double are circulating, even if the Slovenian and UAE Team Emirates have still to confirm and perhaps even decide his major goals.
“For sure the main goal in 2024 will be the Tour de France,” Pogačar makes clear in an interview with Cyclingnews and La Gazzetta dello Sport, but with a caveat.
“I need to look at the whole picture and decide what I really want to achieve and what I’m capable of achieving.
“It’s more of a mental decision than a performance-based decision. The organisation of it all is important. Even if you just ride the Tour de France, the organisation and planning needs to be perfect so that you can train 100%, recover 100% and then race at 100%. If you don’t have the time to do all that, then it’s not worth it. That’s an especially important factor if you want to do two Grand Tours in the same season.
“For sure I’d have to give up some other races to ride both the Giro and Tour and I love racing the Classics, so it’s going to be a tough decision.”
No one has completed the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998. Chris Froome won the 2018 Giro d’Italia and was third at the Tour de France, while Tom Dumoulin was second in both races in the same year.
Pogačar is widely considered the most likely candidate to emulate Pantani. He is the best rider of his generation, Merckxian in the way he wins so much each season and in different races, and so perhaps the rider most equipped to take on the Giro-Tour double.
“I don’t eat people… I don’t think I’m a cannibal like Merckx,” Pogačar suggests, keen to portray himself in a more human, less competitive nature.
Pogačar won 17 races in 2023 and he again topped the individual UCI rankings by a massive amount ahead of Jonas Vigegaard, Remco Evenepoel and Primož Roglič. He won Paris-Nice, the Tour of Flanders, the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne…