Pogacar jokes about Van der Poel's UAE trip, but was notably emotional in Liège: "It gave me strength" Cycling

Pogacar jokes about Van der Poel's UAE trip, but was notably emotional in Liège: "It gave me strength"

Pogacar jokes about Van der Poel's UAE trip, but was notably emotional in Liège: "It gave me strength"

Tadej Pogacar did not punch the air or display his well-known smile very often. His victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège was overwhelmingly dominant, yet the day was tinged with sadness for the Slovenian from UAE Team Emirates.

"It was very emotional all day, riding around thinking about Urska's mother who passed away two years ago," Pogacar shared in the flash interview after the race. He had skipped La Doyenne in 2022 due to the sudden death of his mother-in-law. "Last year I broke my hand, so it was tough, but today I rode for her mother. I'm glad I can finally win this beautiful race."

Pogacar chose La Redoute, not Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, as his point of attack

That Pogacar would win was no surprise. He was the clear top favorite. "Whether I'll attack on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons? I don't know yet. We'll see on Sunday," he had said at a press conference two days earlier, attended by IDLProCycling.com, among others. It turned out that La Redoute would be his chosen spot for the breakaway, about thirty kilometers from the finish. The manner in which Pogacar won was even more dominant than expected. The UAE boys rode hard from the start, and at La Redoute, the team leader did not hesitate.

Pogacar eventually distanced second-place Romain Bardet by a minute and a half. "It was a miserable day from the start, but we kept pushing as a team to stay warm and keep the pace high. It was great teamwork all day. I couldn’t have done it without them," he explained. According to Pogacar, his team didn't lead all day for nothing. "The most important thing was to be cautious. Last year was about conserving energy, this time I wanted to stay safe and warm. I wore multiple layers because it was super cold in the first phase. We rode hard on the climbs and safely downhill. From La Redoute, we did everything we had to do, suffering all the way to the finish. It's special to arrive solo in such a race."

Read more below the photo!

Pogacar jokes about Van der Poel's UAE trip, but was notably emotional in Liège: "It gave me strength"

UAE Team Emirates teammates did a tremendous job for Pogacar

After the podium ceremony, the champion from Komenda also visited the press room, where he spoke to the cycling press for about six minutes. There he emphasized once again how incredibly important this victory was to him. "In 2022, Urska's mother died, last year I broke my wrist and my season was somewhat ruined. That makes a victory here extra special. And extra emotional. Thinking of Urska's mother gave me a lot of extra strength and more motivation to ride solo to the finish."

"It was really full-on from the beginning to the top of the Redoute," the all-rounder emphasized again. "Domen (Novak, ed.) was amazing. He did a tremendous job. For the first few hundred meters on the Redoute, he set an incredibly high pace. After that, I could attack at the right moment. The many stretches with headwinds made it extra challenging. Racing 255 kilometers in cold and wet conditions is never nice. But once you hear you have a minute's lead, it all becomes a bit easier. It's very good for motivation."

Pogacar reveals that he doesn't specifically train for long solos or such distant attacks. "It's not really something you can train for. Besides, I don't think it would help much. It's always the same with racing. Just try to attack and get away on your own. Choosing the right moment is the most crucial part. Then you'll see whether it works or not."

Read more below the photo!

pogacar van der poel

Van der Poel to UAE Team Emirates? Pogacar jokes around

Finally, we'd like to mention a fun fact. Pogacar and Mathieu van der Poel, who impressively finished third in Liège, are very good friends. Before the podium ceremony—and also in the press room—we saw that the duo were having a great time together. "We were chatting a bit about vacations," Pogacar chuckled. "Mathieu told me he's going to Dubai for a holiday. That's a good choice, especially because of the weather. Though it has been raining a lot and there were floods, so maybe it will be more like swimming in the streets. No, just kidding."

"But the United Arab Emirates is definitely a good destination," he then hints at the home of his team. "Maybe he can go sign some contracts with UAE while he’s there," he made the room—including Van der Poel—laugh. "I can't really start enjoying myself yet because I have a task to accomplish in Italy," he refers to his upcoming participation in the Giro d'Italia.

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