Volta Catalunya 2024: Pogacar, king of the Volta Catalunya, already wins unintentionally | Cycling | Sports

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Pogacar celebrates his fourth stage victory of the seven of the Volta, as well as his conquest of the contest.Quique Garcia (EFE)

The buses arrived at the Plaza España in Barcelona late in the morning and the atmosphere was soon filled with the rolling of the wheels, also the megaphone that announced the Volta teams. But the commotion was about 100 meters away, where the UAE bus was resting. “We have come from Mallorca to take a photo with Pogacar, tell him to come out!” some fans asked the team’s sports director, Matxín, who tried to make them see that there were more than 300 people gathered there. “Tadej, a photo, a signature, something, please!” others shouted when he appeared through the door, an echo shared by everyone. And he, patient, attended to as many as he could, escorted by three people to go to the signature control. Although before, he happily pointed to the sign that a child gave him and that adorned the bus. “You yes najboljsi!”, it read in Slovenian. “You’re the best”. And well he has been; triumph as overwhelming as it was planned. “With a runner like Pogacar and depending on the escapes, we saw that we could win five stages,” resolves Matxín, who a week ago, in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, gave the runners the dossier he makes each day of the race, where he raises the tactics, the procedure to follow, the position in which each one has to go within the peloton… In the end, four stages have been completed – the four of Pogacarin addition to the champion laurel for the Slovenian, an extraterrestrial on the bicycle.

Stage 1. The team’s orders were to avoid escapes, to try to reach the sprint final, on a slope, well placed for Pogacar to burn the wheel and win. And although they imposed their law, the route went against them. “The boys worked perfectly, but in the end there were many curves, fences, paved roads… And they tried to take as few risks as possible,” says Matxín. “We have been left without all the people we wanted, we have lost our way before our time and it has taken its toll on us,” Soler accepted. “But it was not a miscalculation but rather it was the merit of Schultz (Israel),” adds Matxín. And Pogacar was content with second place. He wouldn’t happen again.

Stage 2. In it meeting of the bus before the start, Matxín was clear: “You have to break six kilometers from the finish line, just before the landing, which is where the most advantage and damage can be done.” The cyclists accepted the strategy, aware that there was work to be done first, since the pace had to be set at first by Novak, then by Grossschartner and at the end by Sivakov. “It was to create the natural selection of the strongest,” summarizes Matxín. Work done and, now on the Vallter ramps, Pogacar pushes him to the finish line. Afterwards, the Slovenian started taking selfies with his companions on the bus, everyone happy because the plans had turned out wonderfully.

Stage 3. There was no specific point to attack, but it was about wearing down the rest so that Pogacar could jump on the last climb to Port Ainé. “We set the pace and if there is a team that wants to go faster, we let them do it because the road belongs to everyone,” Matxín told his men. That’s what Visma tried and that’s what Mikel Landa achieved with his attack, replicated by Pogacar with another fiercer one. “Mikel’s attempt made things easier for Tadej,” agrees the UAE sports director; “because if there were no movements, it could become a mad race.” Once again, Pogacar alone in the face of danger and arms raised to celebrate the victory.

Stage 4 and 5. Flat road that would exalt the victors by the photo finish and time off for UAE, without a sprinter. “They were stages that had to be controlled alone due to the fact of the sprint final,” says Matxín, who was clear to the group: “We let there be leaks and if someone wants to pull harder, they should get in front. As long as there are not 20 or 30 runners with any important one…”. In both races, Cofidis, Ineos and Movistar tried to put the brakes on the escapees, to launch their sprinters. Pogacar took a breath.

Stage 6. “We have to maintain the block until the last climb if they let us go at our pace. But if they start us earlier, we seek to select the platoon more,” Matxín told his squad. It happened that Visma and Movistar tried to break up early, to the point that on the climb to Prades, when there were two climbs left, only 10 cyclists were left standing. “We put Marc Soler there to calm the group down, to set a rhythm to recover; In fact, those from behind caught us.” Pogacar wanted some gasoline and with 30 kilometers to go, on the penultimate mountain, he left the rest behind to put the Volta in his pocket.

Last stage. With a superlative competitive nature, UAE planned the last stage to win it. But contrary to what was imagined, the team did not plan to work for Pogacar but for Marc Soler, a luxury gregarious. “He is in Barcelona, ​​he deserves it and it is fair,” said the sports director. The escape was aborted when the six laps of the urban circuit began with the Montjuïc Castle Hill in the middle, a few cyclists jumped and Soler took the wheel, calm because he knew that Pogacar would not attack from behind. But Ineos wanted to reach sprint and what was happening was over, the platoon grouped together with 14 kilometers to go. The attacks continued, the strongest being Williams (Israel), who broke the peloton and left 20 runners to compete for the sprint final. And Pogacar took it, who already wins unintentionally. “We have tried with Marc, he deserved it,” acknowledged the Slovenian at the finish line. Honor to Tadej, the best in everything, Volta champion ahead of Mikel Landa (Soudal) and Egan Bernal (Ineos); and UAE smile.

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