Freeman Cebu Sports

Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar

ALLEZ - JV Araneta - The Freeman

Im not going to talk about the 2021 Tour de France. There are a lot of news about it if you search via google. However, I’d like to talk about my observation about the race and the new King of the Tour.

Professional cycling powerhouses are cyclical, and they come wrapped in certain nationalities. For example, from 1991-95, Spain was on the top. Then from 1999-05, it was the Americans, followed by the Spaniards again from 2006-10. Then the British Invasion happened from 2021-19 with Italian Vincenzo Nibali winning in 2015. The past two years, the world belongs to the Slovenians.

Slovenia is basically a new country. It was originally a part of the former Yugoslavia and gained independence only in 1991. According to Wikipedia, “The most popular team sports are football, basketball, volleyball, ice hockey and handball. While the most popular individual sports are skiing, ski jumping, athletics, cycling, and tennis.” I think the most popular Slovenian sportsman in the Philippines is Luca Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks. Another popular athlete is Katarina Srebotnic, who is an exceptional doubles tennis player and has won multi-Grand Slam Tournaments.

Whats really amazing about Slovenia is that it has a population of “only” 2.1 million, and to be able to identify talents and convert them into world beaters is something to behold. Look, the Philippines have a population of 109 million yet, we couldn’t even put a foot inside the door of any of the three sports that I mentioned. Well, Manny Paquiao is certainly a world beater but he’s not a product of our sports system. In fact, he wasn’t even part of any system. He is a singular individual in many ways and is not coming back in any form even in the next generation.

Going back to cycling and Pogacar, the 2-time Tour champion is inly 22yo and in my opinion, he has not hit his prime yet. Lance Armstrong got his first Tour win when he was 28yo. On the other hand, Laurent Fignon, the great French champion won his first Tour when he was 22 in 1983 and then defended the crown the following year. After that, knee injuries would dilute his talents and he would only end up winning two Tours and Giro d’Italia in 1989. In spite of his prestigious wins, Fignon will always be known as the man who lost the Tour by 8 seconds on the last day.

However, I don’t think Pogacar will have a short career. Sports medicine has gone a long since 1983.  A lot of pundits believe he can be the next Eddy Merckx but, nah, I don’t think so. Eddy lived and raced in a different era, and he raced every race that was on the schedule. That’s why he was called. The Cannibal”.

But there is no denying the the yet untapped talent of Tadej Pogacar. But a rivalry is on the way in the name of Remco Evanepoel. If Remco’s improvement follows the expected trajectory, this 21yo Belgian will be the best rival of Tadej Pogacar.

With Mathiue Van Der Poel and Wout Van Aert, cycling is in good hands.

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