Tadej Pogačar has confirmed he will not target a second consecutive victory at Strade Bianche and will instead head to France early to prepare for Paris-Nice and the key stage 3 team time trial.
2022 Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard is also set to ride Paris-Nice, setting up an early-season clash between the two Tour favourites.
The UAE Team Emirates rider dominated last year’s Strade Bianche, making a 50km solo attack before riding triumphantly into Siena. He also went on to win Tirreno-Adriatico for a second consecutive year before targeting Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders.
Pogačar opted against riding this year’s UAE Tour despite the race being hugely important for UAE Team Emirates and has now revealed another change to his race calendar. He has never ridden Paris-Nice but will head to the French capital for the start on Sunday, March 5.
“It was a hard choice because Strade and Paris-Nice looked like a really interesting challenge but I think this challenge can wait a bit,” Pogcar told Sporza (opens in new tab) in a video interview, suggesting he had considered riding Strade Bianche on Saturday, March 4 and then taking a private jet to Paris to start Paris-Nice the day after.
Pogačar’s decision to skip Strade Bianche appeared to be based on his desire to be at his best for the French stage race.
“If I want to be really good in Paris-Nice, which I’ve never done before and it’s a super hard race, the team time trial will be important and we need to spend a few days before the race together,” Pogačar explained.
“If I do Strade Bianche that’s impossible, I’d go to the team time trial without any knowledge of the group and don’t think it’s work.”
Pogačar’s January training was hit by a bout of gastroenteritis but it seems his racing programme was changed during the winter, with UAE Team Emirates preferring not to reveal their plans.
He made his season debut at the Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior, dominating the Spanish gravel race, then went on to win three stages and the overall of the Vuelta a Andalucia.
Pogačar and UAE Team Emirates are determined to win the 2023 Tour de France after losing the 2022 race to Vingegaard and Jumbo-Visma. Pogačar appears to have pared back his race programme to peak for his biggest goals.
“From now it’ll only be hard, important races,” Pogačar told Sporza when asked about his race programme.
“I’ll try to be good in the Classics, especially Milan-San Remo and Flanders. And then all eyes are on the Tour.”
Pogačar’s partner and fellow pro, Urška Žigart, also took part in the Sporza interview and joked about the apparent secrecy of his race programme and the changes for 2023.
“Two days ago we were joking that the most valuable thing in our apartment is the printed-out calendar of Tadej’ races because everyone is wondering a little bit, when in fact, it’s been laid out way before,” she said.
“I think it’s just interesting for the media to speculate a little bit. We’re trying to keep it a little bit more secret.”
After Paris-Nice, Pogačar will ride Milan-San Remo and then in theory head to Belgium for Dwars door Vlaanderen (March 29) and the Tour of Flanders on April 2.
He is expected to then target the Ardennes Classics later in April, take a break and then prepare for the Tour de France by riding the Tour of Slovenia in June.