It’s striking that when Tim Wellens is asked to define one standout characteristic that he has grown to appreciate about Tadej Pogačar during the Belgian’s first season at UAE Team Emirates, it has almost nothing to do with bike racing.
“What impresses me the most about him is that he always keeps his two feet on the ground and he doesn’t feel better than anyone else. And that’s even though he’s the one rider that could feel better than anyone else, because he’s the best rider in the world, “ Wellens tells Cyclingnews.
“But no, he’s stayed perfectly normal and the way you see him on social media and TV is exactly the way he is in real life. He’s not playing a role.”
“He likes what he does, and for sure he’s very playful. But apart from being a good rider, he’s easy to bond with because he’s a very nice person as well.”
While clearly pleased to be working for and with Pogačar, Wellens’ own first year at UAE Team Emirates has been a very eventful one, with a very promising early season brutally poleaxed by his major crash in Flanders.
The resulting injury, with a collarbone broken in four places, proved to be so serious that it did not only wreck Flanders and the rest of his Classics season, but it also played a part in Wellens’ failure to be selected for the Tour de France.
However, Wellens pulled his season back together with his victory in last August’s Renewi Tour, and this winter, he’s equally determined to be both back this spring in Belgium and at the Tour de France in July. In Flanders, though, this time round he’ll be fighting for his own chances, while in the Tour, as he puts it, it’ll be 100% about helping Pogačar.
“I’m basically doing the same races as the first part of last year, with the slight difference that I’ll start a little bit later, in February rather than January. The reason for that is even before I crashed in Flanders, I felt my level was dropping off, and we don’t want that to happen again.”
The first major difference will come this April after taking part in around five Belgian Classics, he will finally make his long-awaited debut at Paris-Roubaix – which comes after a total of 28 participations to date in the four other Monuments.
“After that, I’ll take a little break and then start my build-up for the Tour de France,” Wellens says. “I’m honoured to be on the long list for France with UAE with so many top names and my goal is to do some very good work for the team…