Pogacar ready for double Giro-Tour challenge

Tadej Pogacar has recovered from COVID-19 and feels ready for one of the toughest challenges in road cycling, the Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double, while his main rival and defending Tour champion Jonas Vingegaard is playing down his own expectations.

The Slovenian defeated his rivals in last month’s Giro and, with Vingegaard out of action after suffering a serious injury during the Tour of the Basque Country in April, is the odds-on favourite to become the first to win the double since the later disgraced Marco Pantani in 1998. “It’s quite difficult to win one Grand Tour, and it was also difficult to win the Giro. I had to give everything,” Pogacar, who won the Giro by almost 10 minutes, told a news conference at Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio on Thursday.

“The double is definitely a big challenge and everyone agrees on that. But I get excited about challenges.” After his Giro triumph, Pogacar took a week off before starting his preparation for the Tour, which was then somewhat hampered by a bout of COVID-19.

“I had it 10 days ago, but now I’m ready for a hot summer,” said Pogacar, who also won the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Monument classic this spring. BONUS

For Vingegaard, on the other hand, who crushed Pogacar last year and also beat him in the Tour in 2022 but has not raced since his crash, “just being here is a victory”. When asked about his ambitions in the race, the Dane kept his cards close to his chest.

“I hope for a good classification (general classification result),” he said. “I had to take a long break after my crash. I had a lot of injuries that had to heal before I could train properly. From now on, every day is a bonus. I don’t know if I can win it. I’m not in bad shape and I have hope, but we’ll see.”

Pogacar was not convinced. “If he is here at the start, it means he is ready,” he said.

Slovenian compatriot Primoz Roglic, who also crashed heavily in the Tour of the Basque Country in early April, has recovered after winning the Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month. “At the moment I feel good. Things have been going well in the last few weeks, I haven’t had any pain,” the three-time Vuelta champion, who will lead the Red Bull-Bora Hansgrohe team after leaving Vingegaard’s outfit in the off-season.

Belgian prodigy Remco Evenepoel is making his Tour de France debut and he hopes the race will be a four-man battle. “I don’t know if this will happen, but that’s what people want to see,” Evenepoel said.

The race, which starts from Florence on Saturday, has an explosive start with the first high mountain stage on Tuesday, where Pogacar says “there will be big gaps”.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)