Approaching the 2023 edition of the Flèche Wallonne, an all-too-familiar question saturated social media and broader cycling commentary – who can beat Tadej Pogačar?
The answer, proved emphatically on the Mur de Huy, was no one in the current field. Pogačar rode clear of his major rivals on the final uphill sprint, making his attack with 150m remaining, ahead of Mattias Skjelmose (Trek-Segafredo) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious).
While it would be easy to pin the result down to yet another show of exceptional strength, Pogačar was quick to credit his team and the drawn-out tactics of the day’s race for his win.
Following the race, he described, “a perfect lead-out. Basically, we did a 200km lead-out.”
“The team put me in the best place, and I was in control until the last 200m, where Bardet attacked, but I knew it was too soon,” he said. “About 150m to go was my goal [to attack], and I tried to do my best from there.”
“Without [the team], I could not win today,” Pogačar added. Given his clear favourite position approaching Flèche, he recalled how the team found themselves marked by the field. “No one really helped us. It was all on us,” Pogačar said.
While Pogačar has shown an impressive proclivity for long solo attacks, he wasn’t confident in attacking early at the Flèche Wallonne. “Here, it is really tricky to go solo,” he said. “It’s 3km flat before the Mur, and you really pay the price there if you’re alone, and you need the legs for the final kilometre.
“Because we did a good pace, nobody could [attack],” he added. “It was always pretty hard, high pace, so that was perfect for us, so no one really put [in] a big attack.”
While Pogačar winning may seem like a broken record, the Slovenian doesn’t seem to be getting bored of success.
“For me, winning… you don’t get bored crossing the line first,” he said. “I really enjoyed that, and I’m really grateful I have this moment now with such great shape. I enjoy this while I can.”
His final objective for the Classics season lies ahead. Liège-Bastogne-Liège takes place this Sunday, where the Ardennes triple – a win at Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the same season – is within Pogačar’s sights.
Acknowledging the legacy of the only male winners – Philippe Gilbert and Davide Rebellin – Pogačar made clear his desire to win. “The last objective of the first part of the season is Sunday, and we will give everything to…
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