The Slovenian star didn't use his home race as a lead-in for the Tour de France last year, going for a more conventional path through the Criterium du Dauphine, where he finished fourth. This time around, it's a much more sparse build-up to the 2021 edition of the French Grand Tour for Pogačar, who hasn't raced since his win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
"For myself and my team, this is a preparation race before the start of the Tour," said Pogačar in a press conference on the eve of the race. "I was always close to the podium on Tour of Slovenia, now I definitely want to win. We’ll see how strong my legs will be.
“Critérium du Dauphiné was our first choice, with Tour of Slovenia as a solid second option. About two months ago we decided in favor of Slovenia, which gave us more time for other obligations. I also enjoy racing here.”
“After my last race I had a time to rest and do a lot of promotional obligations, then we went to inspect the Tour route and went on the altitude camp."
Pogačar has won the young riders jersey at the Tour of Slovenia on three occasions, the first being in 2018 at just 18 years of age. It was the race where he first made a name for himself against WorldTour competition, racing for Slovenian continental team Ljubljana Gusto Santic, a squad present on the race start again this year.
When Pogačar raced with the squad, the team boasted two Australian riders in Tim Guy and Ben Hill, who wore the leader's jersey at the 2019 edition of the Tour of Slovenia. This year Ljubljana Gusto Santic will line up with two more Aussies, Canberran Dylan Hopkins, 19, and Wagga Wagga's Zac Barnhill, 18.
"I’m really looking forward to come home to race the Tour of Slovenia," said Pogačar. "I’ll be racing against friends, old teammates and it will be a real buzz to be home on familiar roads. It’s going to be nice having the local support too.
"It’s an exciting time for Slovenian cycling now and I’m sure we can look forward to a great race. I think our team is very strong and we hope to be fighting for the victory.”
Pogačar’s biggest GC rival for the Tour de France, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), is not at the Tour of Slovenia. Like Pogačar, he has not raced since Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but he has opted not to compete at all ahead of the Tour, preferring instead to train at altitude at Sierra Nevada.
The race will also serve as an opportunity to get Pogačar team into order ahead of the Tour de France, with a strong and varied squad including Rafal Majka, Diego Ulissi, Jan Polanc, Matteo Trentin, Vegard Stade Laengen and Rui Oliveira.
While a win would be welcome, there isn't the same level of competition present at other lead-up races to the Tour de France, with the Criterium du Dauphine and Tour de Suisse where most of the stars of the sport have gone to lay the last stages of their preparation for the Tour de France.
Every moment of the 2021 Tour de France will be live on SBS, with the ŠKODA Tour Tracker app, SBS TV and the SBS Cycling Central the place to be to catch all the pulsating action from France from June 26 to July 18.