Tadej Pogacar holds nerve in time-trial finale to win Tirreno-Adriatico

Two stage races. Two overall victories. Tadej Pogacar is preparing perfectly to defend his Tour de France title.

The Slovenian won the week-long Tirreno-Adriatico race by a comfortable margin ahead of a stellar field on Tuesday, adding to his title in the UAE Tour last month. “What a fantastic start to the season,” said Pogacar. “This is one of the biggest one-week races.”

After placing fourth in the concluding time-trial, Pogacar finished 1min 3sec ahead of Wout van Aert in the overall standings of the sea-to-sea race. Mikel Landa finished third overall, 3min 57sec behind. Egan Bernal, the 2019 Tour winner, finished fourth, more than four minutes behind Pogacar.

The 22-year-old Pogacar won one stage in both the UAE Tour and the Tirreno, having taken Saturday’s “queen” leg that finished with a gruelling climb to Prati di Tivo. He also gained time against all of his overall rivals in Sunday’s fifth stage, which featured a circuit over a series of short climbs or “walls”, when he nearly caught breakaway rider Mathieu van der Poel. “Stage five in the cold, wet weather. That’s the stage I will never forget,” said Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates.

Van Aert won the time-trial for his second stage win of the race, clocking 11min 6sec along the entirely flat 10.1km (6.3-mile) route in San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic coast. European champion Stefan Küng finished second, six seconds behind, and world champion Filippo Ganna was third, 11 seconds behind – ending his winning streak in time-trials at eight.

“I’m improving in this discipline every year a little bit,” said Van Aert. “It was my first time aiming for GC in a stage race and I only got beaten by the Tour de France winner. I’ll try more of this in the future but for now I have the classics in my mind, starting with Milano-San Remo.” Pogaca

Up next on the World Tour calendar is the Milan-San Remo classic on Saturday, although Pogacar is not entered. He will next compete in the Tour of the Basque Country in April, followed by the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège single-day races. “But first,” he said, “I want to rest a little bit.”

The multi-talented Van Aert also won the opening stage in a sprint. He’ll be looking to successfully defend his Milan-San Remo title. “I felt really good this week and I saw last year that I really improved my form afterward,” the Belgian said. “Now I’ve got to recover as good as possible. But I saw a lot of strong riders this week, so I’m definitely not the only favourite.”