After a dominant spring with victories in the Vuelta a Andalucia and Paris-Nice, then a stunning Classics campaign, Tadej Pogačar is a favourite to take home the ‘Ardennes Triple’ – a feat accomplished by only three riders in history: Davide Rebellin (2004), Philippe Gilbert (2011) and, in the short history of the women’s races, Anna van der Breggen in 2017.
Pogačar’s win in the Amstel Gold Race confirmed his unmatched climbing abilities already shown with his astonishing Tour of Flanders victory. The UAE Team Emirates rider’s next obstacles are La Flèche Wallonne then Liège-Bastogne-Liège and its defending champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep).
Evenepoel has also enjoyed a successful spring with the overall at UAE Tour and two stages and the final podium in the Volta a Catalunya. He has been preparing for the Giro d’Italia on Tenerife while Pogačar has been tearing up the Classics.
On Wednesday in La Flèche Wallonne, the most difficult obstacle is the course that plays less into the type of long-range solo attack that earned Pogačar his previous two one-day race victories this season. The organisers have added the Côte d’Ereffe and Côte de Cherave climbs to the final circuits but there still hasn’t been a solo winner in the men’s race since Igor Astarloa in 2003.
“I’ve never had a good result there,” Pogačar said according to Sporza. His best result was ninth in 2020. “It is a difficult race for me. But with this good form I think I can also achieve a good result there.”
While Wednesday’s race is more complicated, Liège-Bastogne-Liège better suits Pogačar’s abilities – he won the race in a small bunch sprint over Julian Alaphilippe in 2021. But it also suits Evenepoel, who attacked on the Côte de la Redoute with 29km to go and soloed in to win in 2022.
Pogačar recognized that Evenepoel will be his main rival for Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “Remco comes from altitude training,” Pogačar said. “He is definitely in good shape for the Giro. Remco already won last year in Liège and this season he has already shown that he is super good on short and long climbs. And he can ride a good sprint.
“He will be one of the main opponents on Sunday, that’s for sure. We have not often raced against each other at the top level. When we raced together, he won every time and I was far behind. I hope that will be different on Sunday.”
In the World Championships last year when Evenepoel claimed the rainbow jersey, Pogačar was a distant 19th. When Evenepoel…
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