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Pogacar 'good enough' to win Giro d'Italia and Tour de France

Tadej Pogacar (C) climbs to victory on stage 15 of the Giro (Luca Bettini)
Tadej Pogacar (C) climbs to victory on stage 15 of the Giro (Luca Bettini)

Runaway Giro d'Italia leader Tadej Pogacar says his current form feels "good enough" to carry him to a rare cycling double as he chases victory in the Italian race and the Tour de France in July.

Only seven riders in cycling's storied history have achieved the double with Marco Pantani in 1998 the last man to succeed, in the year of Pogacar's birth.

The 25-year-old Pogacar has won four stages at the ongoing 2024 Giro, and leads second-placed Geraint Thomas by 6min 41sec with six days racing remaining.

"Let's get through this Giro first," the UAE Team Emirates rider told press on Monday.

"I have a strong lead and a strong team, now I need to conserve energy, good pacing and good weather will help," he said.

Pogacar explained that conventional wisdom suggests that because the two 21-day races are so close together, a rider must go into the Tour de France fresh.

"With my lead as it is, I can race more conservatively in the final week. They all say you need to have good legs coming out of the Giro, and I feel good enough right now."

- The magnificent seven -

Should Pogacar pull off the ambitious feat he will join a list of legends in Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Stephen Roche, Miguel Indurain and Pantani.

Described last season by Merckx as being cycling's most complete rider, Pogacar appears to be on flying form in terms of morale as he looks to make history and even shared some teenage memories of the same ski resort where he achieved Sunday's landmark crushing win at 2350m altitude.

"I feel great, this is one of my favourite places. We were here with the Slovenian team when I was junior, when we had little money and rented an old house all together and went to the cheap supermarket in the van, just fantastic memories," Pogacar said.

"Sunday's race was a Queen stage so it was a big win, not as big as winning a monument (one of cycling's big one-day races), but not far."

Asked if the Giro was as big as the Tour, Pogacar was unequivocal.

"No, come on, the biggest race you can win is the Tour de France, right?"

- Pretty in pink -

A confident and refined public speaker, Pogacar then went on to hail the virtues of the Italian tour.

"I dreamed of that pink jersey," he said of the iconic pink outfit worn by the race leader.

"And hearing your name cheered for 200km is something wonderfully inspiring, it lifts you beyond your barrier."

While he refused to take anything for granted, Pogacar was already looking ahead to the Tour.

"I hope to be like the others who did it (won the double), to go there with high morale, chilled out after a good training camp. I think I'm going to be good enough," he said.

Pogacar burst onto the scene winning three stages at the Vuelta a Espana in 2019 and coming third.

The following year he pulled of one of cycling's biggest ever surprises when he overhauled a 90-second gap on Primoz Roglic to take the lead at the very end of the Tour de France in 2020.

In 2021, Pogacar dominated the Tour to claim back-to-back triumphs, before a rival emerged in the form of Danish Visma rider Jonas Vingegaard.

Merckx stated in 2023 that for now the Dane was the best Grand Tour rider, but Vingegaard is scrambling to achieve top fitness for the Tour after a nasty crash at the Tour of the Basque Country.

While Pogacar has no visible rival at the Giro, Vingegaard will be just one hazard to watch out for on the French roads, and Belgian rider Remco Evenepoel, Colombian climber Egan Bernal and old foe Roglic all feature on a wide-open roster ripe for surprises.

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