Tadej Pogačar (pronounced ta-day po-ga-char), has made a fine start to his WorldTour career, finishing 13th overall on the general classification at the Tour Down Under, showing himself to be pretty comfortable at the elite level.
“It’s definitely different racing,” said Pogačar. “I think there’s a bit more respect in the group but when it goes hard it can also be chaotic. For now, I feel really good in the racing, so let’s see.”
An early season focus for Pogačar has seen the 20-year-old take on a lot of responsibility in his first race for his new team, taking on the role of joint leadership at the Tour Down Under with established star of the sport Diego Ulissi.
“I knew early that I would race Tour Down Under,” said Pogačar. “I was short in the off-season, so I started really early with the training. I didn’t know if I would be in my top shape, but I prepared for the race.”
“This team is really good. They accepted me, all the neo-pros and we’ve really connected.”
“My first target was Tour Down Under, for the next races I don’t know, I’ll just focus to help my team.”
The expectation associated with winning the Tour de l’Avenir doesn’t faze Pogačar, who views his early success at the Under 23 level in context with the achievements of the WorldTour riders he hopes to best in future races.
“I don’t think so,” said Pogačar when asked if there is a burden of expectation associated with winning the Tour de l’Avenir. “Because here we are all really good riders. We’re all the best and there aren’t really big differences between riders.”
Pogačar has a strong Australian connection to his career, he raced and trained extensively with Australian teammates on his Slovenian squad, Ljubljana Gusto Santic, last year, with Ben Hill and Tim Guy living within the team house over in the Eastern European base.
“The guy is a weapon,” said Guy of his former teammate. “They took me out go-carting for my birthday is Slovenia last year.
“Ben and I thought we could beat him. He is barely old enough to drive. But he smashed us. He is competitive as hell. But manages to do it without you knowing he is about to rip you to pieces.
“He’s the nicest guy, always fun to be around, always appreciative of anything you do for him. Once a competition is on, he is on, he doesn't miss a beat.”
Australian Neil Stephens was Pogačar’s sports director at the Tour Down Under and talked about the development of the talented youngster.
“We have to take one step at a time you know,” said Stephens. “He’s only 20 years old, only just 20 years old.
“He’s a good guy, he listens to what advice we’ve given him. He’s obviously physically gifted and he’s learnt a lot quickly, so I think he’s got a very bright future.”
“He’s a quiet, very respectful young guy. He’s energetic sort of a guy, but he’s not getting ahead of himself which is good to see.”
As a former Tour de l’Avenir winner, Pogačar’s progress in the climbing races will be closely monitored by aficionados of the sport, but he has certainly made a good early impression.