Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar is one to believe in, insists UAE Team Emirates medical director

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Tadej Pogacar celebrates on the podium - SHUTTERSTOCKTadej Pogacar celebrates on the podium - SHUTTERSTOCK

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Tadej Pogacar celebrates on the podium – SHUTTERSTOCK

New Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar is “one of a kind” in terms of his ability to recover from gruelling efforts, according to UAE Team Emirates medical director Dr Jeroen Swart, who says cycling fans should believe in the young Slovenian.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Pogacar – who turned 22 on Monday – became the youngest Tour winner in over a century on Sunday thanks largely to his sensational performance in the penultimate day time trial.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”27″>Pogacar – who turned 22 on Monday – became the youngest Tour winner in over a century on Sunday thanks largely to his sensational performance in the penultimate day time trial. 

Pogacar turned a 57-second deficit to compatriot Primoz Roglic [Jumbo-Visma] into a 59-second advantage on the 36.2km course which ended on La Planche des Belles Filles, in what was hailed as one of the greatest rides in the history of the sport. Given cycling’s checkered past, that performance naturally led some to question whether we could believe what we were witnessing. 

Swart, a South African who has worked in anti-doping and was the independent doctor brought in to oversee Chris Froome’s independent physiological testing in 2015, believes we can. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="“I wouldn’t get involved in any aspect of this team if I wasn’t sure that my reputation was&nbsp;safe,” Swart told The Cycling Podcast. “I have access to all the blood profiles and there’s nothing that I’ve seen [of Pogacar] that makes me even remotely concerned.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”34″>“I wouldn’t get involved in any aspect of this team if I wasn’t sure that my reputation was safe,” Swart told The Cycling Podcast. “I have access to all the blood profiles and there’s nothing that I’ve seen [of Pogacar] that makes me even remotely concerned. 

“Tadej is someone who shies away from using any form of medication whatsoever. Last year in the Vuelta when he crashed I could see he was in pain and I offered him paracetamol and he refused to take it. He said, ‘No, the pain is not bad enough to warrant taking any medication. I don’t put anything in my body I don’t need’. Those sorts of things give me a lot of reassurance. 

“Look, we know the history of the sport. You can never be 100 per cent sure of anything, as we’ve seen over the years. But certainly from what I can see and control and what I have seen, there is nothing that gives me any pause whatsoever.”

Swart said that Pogacar’s ability to recover, in particular, was “off the charts” good. “That’s really what differentiates winners of one-day races versus grand tour winners,” he said. “My colleague Inigo San Millan actually did a metabolomic study on the guys in our team. That’s looking at markers for various physiological processes. And Tadej’s markers are absolutely off the charts in terms of his ability to recover. He’s really one of a kind in that respect.”

Tadej Pogacar rides through the pain at the Tour de France - SHUTTERSTOCKTadej Pogacar rides through the pain at the Tour de France - SHUTTERSTOCK

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Tadej Pogacar rides through the pain at the Tour de France – SHUTTERSTOCK

Swart, who has previously worked with 1997 Tour champion Jan Ullrich as well as Froome, said Pogacar was in the same bracket in terms of his training numbers, adding that he should still improve further.

“I’ve got quite a lot of data on what it takes to be a Tour de France winner,” he said. “It’s always incredible – having been an athlete at a relatively high level in cycling, and then looking at your numbers and comparing them with what these guys can do. It’s humbling.

“We know cyclists reach their zenith in their mid to late 20s. He’s still developing. I mean, we’ve seen how he’s improved from the Tour of Spain last year to now. Is he at the best level he can be? Logic would say no. But the question is how good an athlete is he going to become and what is his ultimate potential?”