In a much-anticipated return to racing, Slovenian sensation Tadej Pogačar is back in action at the Giro della Toscana, and cycling enthusiasts worldwide are eagerly watching as he gears up for the prestigious Il Lombardia in early October.
Pogačar's quest to achieve an unprecedented Il Lombardia triple, a feat last accomplished by the legendary Fausto Coppi in the late 1940s, has the cycling community buzzing with excitement. The road race season of 2023 is drawing to a close, and the two Tuscan one-day races – Giro della Toscana and Coppa Sabatini – mark the beginning of an intense block of racing in Italy.
Pogačar, a force to be reckoned with, is the odds-on favorite for Wednesday's Giro della Toscana, a race steeped in history, having graced the cycling world since 1923. Past champions include luminaries such as Gino Bartali, Francesco Moser, and Vincenzo Nibali.
Pogačar will lead the UAE Team Emirates contingent, featuring the talented George Bennett, the promising teenager Jan Christen, and the reliable Davide Formolo. The race's route includes the challenging Monte Sera climb, which bisects Pisa and Lucca, offering a spectacle that typically culminates in a thrilling sprint finish in Pontedera, renowned as the birthplace of the Vespa scooter.
Pogačar's Rejuvenation for Lombardia
The Giro della Toscana holds particular significance for Pogačar, as it marks his return to competitive cycling after a hiatus following his bronze medal win at the Glasgow Worlds road race and a 21st-place finish in the time trial back in mid-August.
Speaking about his break from racing, Pogačar emphasized its necessity, but his eagerness to get back on the saddle in Pontedera is palpable. "It was necessary," Pogačar commented on his break. "I'm feeling quite refreshed and eager again to tackle this final period in Italy.
It's one of my favorite times of the year, and there's always a great atmosphere building up to Lombardia." The Giro della Toscana promises fierce competition, with notable riders like Richard Carapaz, returning for the first time since the Tour de France, Alexey Lutsenko, Guillaume Martin, Louis Meintjes, Dani Martínez, and Magnus Sheffield, all set to challenge Pogačar on the grueling Monte Sera ascent.
Pogačar's action-packed schedule continues with the Coppa Sabatini in Peccioli before he returns to Italy for the Giro dell'Emilia on September 30, featuring the iconic climb of San Luca. To round off his Il Lombardia preparations, he will tackle the hilly Tre Valli Varesine north of Milan on October 3, just four days before the big event.
In parallel, the UAE Team Emirates squad will be competing in Belgium at the GP de Wallonie and the Super 8 Classic, with sprinter Alvaro Hodeg, Matteo Trentin, and Ryan Gibbons among the team's notable participants. Cycling enthusiasts and fans of Tadej Pogačar eagerly anticipate the unfolding drama as he embarks on this crucial phase of his 2023 season, with his sights firmly set on making history at Il Lombardia. Stay tuned for more exhilarating cycling action!