Seen from the privacy of the peloton, Tadej Pogacar is nothing like a superman. Two arms, two legs and the face of a tall 23-year-old teenager who smiles at life. “When you’re next to him, he looks normal”, slips to World Thibaut Pinot. Then, the Slovenian gets up on his pedals and the Groupama-FDJ climber then notices the damage like the others. “It became the scarecrow. No matter the race. Even on the Tour of Flanders [finished 4th after a failed sprint], he was the strongest. »

When setting off for his third Tour de France, Friday July 1 in Copenhagen, Tadej Pogacar ignores the concept of defeat on the event. In 2020, he made the pockets of his compatriot Primoz Roglic by winning the victory on the eve of the finish during the lap time of the Belles-Filles. The following year, the impudent confirmed with an impression of ease and a margin of more than five minutes over his runner-up, Jonas Vingegaard.

The trajectory recalls that of another precocious: Laurent Fignon. When the Francilien took off his second Grande Boucle in 1984 for his second participation too, he was promised a long reign. But a painful Achilles tendon broke this carefree – and a bit arrogant – dynamic from the spring of 1985. The comparison stops there with the Slovenian, for the moment immune to injuries, serious falls and even the sins of pride.

From a sport that is said to be “not played”, Pogacar has made it his playground, in which he almost always wins in the end. This season, he has competed in three stage races for as many victories (Tour of the United Arab Emirates, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Slovenia). And even when he makes a mistake like during the Strade Bianche, he gets back in the saddle to disgust the competition after a solo ride.

The Jumbo-Visma wants to exploit the first week

By dint, you have to wonder if the runner from the UAE Emirates team has the slightest defect. “I may look unbeatable but I am not. So far, everything is going well, “he said, without giving the impression of forcing on false modesty, after his victory over Tirreno in March.

Despite everything, the costume of the huge favorite of this 109th edition of the Tour is adjusted to its dimensions. But because the beauty of a France seen and magnified from the helicopter will not be enough to hold the viewer captive on his sofa for three weeks, it is a question of imagining a human “Pogi”, thwarted by the competition.

This is already declared and identified. She wears yellow with a hint of black. The Jumbo-Visma has declared the hunt open for Pogacar, even if his compatriot Primoz Roglic denies it. “This victory is not a message sent to Tadej before the Tour”, declared the second of the 2020 edition after his coronation in June during the Critérium du Dauphiné. As in Paris-Nice in March, the Dutch team crushed the race. But like “the race for the sun”, Pogacar was not around.

How then are we to understand the following statement by Roglic? “I think after what we showed on this Dauphiné, we deserve to be presented as the favorites of the Tour. It’s all in the “we”. On the side of the Jumbo-Visma, we have recorded the physical superiority of Pogacar, but we oppose him the collective power of the house with a luxury lieutenant like Wout Van Aert, a light lining of the quality of Jonas Vingegaard and overqualified team members of the name by Sepp Kuss, Tiesj Benoot or Christophe Laporte.

Equip devots

On paper, the first week of the Tour offers an ideal playground to try to trap the double title holder. There is this second Danish stage sold as a world curb championship, and the cobblestones of Hauts-de-France four days later for a mini Paris-Roubaix. Roglic may have the staff to blast the race, but not sure the fuse is long enough to reach Pogacar.

His demonstration during the last Tour of Flanders proves it, the young man has nothing against a good cobblestone, even if those of the “Ronde” are less bleeding and vicious. The borders? Yes, he took a gust of wind during the Lavaur stage of the 2020 Tour, but a fall a few kilometers earlier could excuse his poor placement. However, since then, he has learned his lesson very quickly and no longer fears the whims of Aeolus.

Pogacar does not doubt the quality and devotion of his teammates either. At UAE, nobody has a second agenda when Van Aert is also aiming for the green jersey and Vingegaard risks being frustrated playing number 2. To the faithful and solid Rafal Majka, Brandon McNulty and Marc Hirschi, the Emirati team offered in the Slovenian the versatile Marc Soler and a new sherpa in the mountains in the person of George Bennett (a former Jumbo).

As a good N 1, Tadej Pogacar also knows how to pamper his collaborators. In 2021, he joined Brandon McNulty to defend, in vain, his first place in the Tour of the Basque Country. On the last Tour of Slovenia, he played and lost a stage victory with a hilarious Rafal Majka, after a game of… shifumi. What if the secret to beating Tadej Pogacar was to take it “rock, paper, scissors”?