Tadej Pogacar and the learning of failure: “I will come back hungry”

Talking about failure is probably unfair. Almost absurd. Tadej Pogacar is not yet 24 years old. He will finish second in the Tour de France. He won three stages. With anyone else, such a record at such a young age would be considered exceptional. But the Slovenian is not just anyone. He is Tadej Pogacar and it is both his greatest chance and his greatest burden when it comes to judging his performance over the past three weeks. Youngest double winner of the Tour and arch-favorite of this 109th edition, he knew that any other result than a third victory in a row would be considered a form of failure.

One thing is certain, “Pogi” was remarkable in what was his first defeat on the Grande Boucle. He never lost his smile. He never missed an opportunity to salute the opponent. This was again the case on Saturday evening in Rocamadour, where his third place on the clock still confirmed that he was finishing this Tour a bit worn out. “It’s still a good Tour for me, I gave everything, I just came across stronger than me this yearhe summarized. For the spectators, it is perhaps not so bad, because they like to see change. Many want a different winner every year.

Of Jonas Vingegaard, Pogacar has nothing but good things to say. “He raised his level again a notch compared to last year, he was solid and in the mountains he really took control“, raises the white jersey, which he will win for the third time, this one.”We were also up against a really strong Jumbo-Visma team, practically flawless“Because he tried everything he could to reverse the trend after the turn of the Granon in the middle of the Tour, and by his irreproachable attitude on and off the bike, he may even come out of this month bigger of July.

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No, I won’t change the way I run

But he will also have to learn the lessons of this first setback. Beyond the strength of Vingegaard or that of his team, he is aware of having sometimes lacked lucidity. “I learned a lot in this Tourhe assures. The team and I made lots of little mistakes. It’s good because it means that there is room for improvement for next year, so that we can improve on all these little details.“In the first place, he again points to the Galibier skirmish with Vingegaard and Roglic, which cost him so much a little later on the slopes of Granon. “In this stepconcedes the Slovenian, I exhausted myself wanting to run behind everyone and it got too hard in the end. It was a mistake on my part, there were probably others.”

For some, Tadej Pogacar may have been wrong to do too much in the first week. Always full, all the time. From the first bumps. On the cobblestones. And even in the sprint! The Galibier was also in the same order of ideas. As if he could never help racing, to be the actor and not the spectator. But on the Tour, you sometimes have to know how to put the handbrake on. Last year, he had such a margin and the competition was weaker than it was this summer, that he didn’t have to foot the bill. But basically, shouldn’t he change or, at least, compromise with his style?

On this level, he is categorical:No, I’m not going to change my way of running. At the Col du Granon I made a mistake but I didn’t do anything either. I had fun on this Tour and I want to keep having fun.” “The Tour de France is like a bucket of water, if you empty it too soon, you run out of it at the end“, however, explained in a metaphor Andy Schleck, winner of the Grande Boucle in 2010. “At the same time it is because he fights that Pogacar is loved“, judge for his part on AFP Bernard Thévenet, convinced that the popularity of the Slovenian will emerge reinforced from this Tour where, after the role of the absolute boss, he has elegantly endorsed that of the loser full of panache.

The incredible pass of arms: Vingegaard, Roglic and Pogacar attack each other in the Galibier

A bad for a good ?

I am proud of Tadejpleads Mauro Gianetti, the manager of UAE Emirates. He still won three stages and the white jersey. He probably could have won another stage and maybe won the best climber’s jersey, but he risked everything to try to win the Tour. We must be happy with what we have achieved“.

For a bit, we almost have the feeling that Pogacar is not totally unhappy not to have won. It is certainly not the age of weariness, but the appetite will still sharpen. “It gives me great motivation, I will come back hungry in the next races and in the next Tour de France“, he confirms. The specter of “the obligation of victory” will also move away a little, and that the excessive weight of the yellow jersey, that of the great favorite, of the man to beat, of the “New Cannibal” à la Merckx, all this will allow him to breathe a little better.

This was Andy Schleck’s fear. The Luxembourger knows what he is talking about. On the Giro podium at 21, a candidate for victory in the Tour at a very young age, he was quickly consumed. “We can’t know what the long-term effects of having found success at such a young age are.he noted at the start of the Tour. Because it’s a hell of a pressure. We’re young, we laugh… He always laughs, I think it’s sometimes a bit ‘fake’. But the pressure, he certainly has it and it will increase. And at some point you pay for it all.” This is why this Tour 2022 may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Tadej Pogacar.

Tadej Pogacar keeps smiling.

Credit: Getty Images

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