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Pogacar ready for attempt at rare double as Vingegaard plays down expectations

Tadej Pogacar during the teams presentation
Tadej Pogacar during the teams presentation Reuters
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 destroyed his rivals in the Giro last month, and with Vingegaard short of competitive racing since he sustained serious injuries at the Tour of the Basque Country in April, he is the hot favourite to become the first to achieve the double since the later-disgraced Marco Pantani in 1998.

"It is pretty difficult to win one Grand Tour, it was difficult to win the Giro, I had to give everything," Pogacar, who won the Giro by almost 10 minutes, told a press conference at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence on Thursday.

"For sure the double is a big challenge and everybody agrees. But I’m excited by challenges."

After his Giro triumph, Pogacar took a week-long break before starting his preparation for the Tour, which was then slightly 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 Liege-Bastogne-Liege Monument classic this spring.

BONUS

By contrast, for Vingegaard, who crushed Pogacar last year and also beat him on the Tour in 2022 but has not raced since his crash, "just being here is a victory".

Asked about his ambitions in the race, the Dane kept his cards close to his chest.

"I hope for a good GC (general classification result)," he said.

"I had to take a long break after my crash. I had a lot of injuries that needed to heal before being able to do proper training. Every day from now on is a bonus. I don't know if I can win it. I'm not in a bad shape and I have hopes but we will see."

Pogacar was not convinced.

"If he's here at the start, it means that he is ready," he said.

Fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic, who also crashed heavily at the Tour of the Basque Country in early April, has recovered, having won the Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month.

"At the moment I feel good. It went well in the last weeks, I haven’t had any pain," the three-time Vuelta champion, who will be leading the Red Bull–Bora Hansgrohe team after leaving Vingegaard's squad during the off-season.

Belgian prodigy Remco Evenepoel will be making his Tour de France debut and he is hoping 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 departs from Florence on Saturday, will be off to an explosive start with the first high mountain stage on Tuesday, where, according to Pogacar, "there will be big gaps".

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