Tadej Pogačar‘s feats of strength may be routine by now, but they are never mundane. The latest exhibition came on his first race day of 2023, as the Slovenian claimed a crushing solo victory at the Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior.
When his UAE Team Emirates began to wind up the pace inside the final 50km, the peloton knew precisely what was coming, but nobody could stop it.
Ineos Grenadiers youngster Ben Tulett put up fierce resistance when Pogačar hit the head of the reduced bunch on a gravel climb with 45km remaining, but even a rider of the Briton’s obvious talent could only manage a few hundred metres in his slipstream before relenting.
In double quick time, Pogačar bridged across to lone escapee Sergio Samitier (Movistar) and he would soon repeat the dose, riding the Spaniard off his wheel with 36km to go.
As previous sprint victories have shown, Pogačar is blessed with a sharp acceleration, but he left the rapier in its scabbard here, opting instead for blunt force. Samitier held on for as long as he could before he was simply overwhelmed by Pogačar’s perpetual motion.
With 15km to go, Pogačar’s lead over the chasers was almost two minutes, though the advantage shrank after a late puncture required an unhurried bike change. No matter, he freewheeled across the line some 48 seconds clear of Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers), who won the sprint for second place ahead of Pogačar’s new teammate Tim Wellens.
“It’s always a little bit scary but I was lucky to have a lot of lead on the second group to have a car behind me, so it was not so stressful in the end,” Pogačar said later.
Turner spoke for the rest of the peloton when he offered his assessment to Eurosport after the finish. They were only fleetingly in the same bike race as the winner.
“Second was the best I could do today after Pogačar just rode away, really,” Turner said. “What a show.”
When the television cameras huddled around Pogačar at the podium, he explained that his winning move had been premeditated, with first Wellens and then Marc Hirschi working to tee up his onslaught. Hirschi would underscore UAE Team Emirates’ collective dominance by winning the sprint for fourth.
“So far, so good, I couldn’t be more happy to start the season like this. It makes me really happy, the team worked so well today it was like a fairy tale and to finish it off with first and third place, it’s amazing,” Pogačar said.
“It was the plan to attack there. The team put us in the perfect position, then Tim…
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