UAE Team Emirates directeur sportif Allan Peiper has said that the team's young star Tadej Pogačar is among the favourites for victory at the Tour de France, just days after team manager Joxean 'Matxin' Fernández said that the Slovenian will go to France primarily as a learning experience.
In an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws, the Australian said that, while he doesn't want to heap pressure onto the 21-year-old, he counts Pogačar among the favourites for the race, which will run from August 29 to September 20.
Pogačar, who turned pro with the team last year, was a revelation at the Vuelta a España, his debut Grand Tour, where he won three stages and finished third overall. He is due to restart his season at Strade Bianche before taking on the Critérium du Dauphiné ahead of his Tour debut.
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"Without wanting to put extreme pressure on him, I'm inclined to count him among the favourites right now," Peiper told Het Laatste Nieuws.
"Certainly [he's a favourite] for a nice general classification result. We'll leave nothing to chance. We'll build a strong team around him and make sure he's prepared for every possible scenario."
Last week, Matxin said that Fabio Aru would lead the team at the Tour, given that the Italian has the most experience. The 30-year-old struggled through the 2018 season before undergoing a surgery on a constricted iliac artery last spring.
Aru returned to take 14th at the Tour de France, while a Vuelta return was cut short by a muscular injury. He has ten career Grand Tour finishes under his belt, a tally that includes victory at the 2015 Vuelta and podiums at the 2014 and 2015 Giro d'Italia.
UAE Team Emirates will take the pair to the Tour, along with David De La Cruz and Davide Formolo. Alexander Kristoff is also heading to France, having rejigged his schedule in order to race the Classics.
"It's an important quartet in which everyone has their own responsibility and importance," said Matxin of the Tour leaders.
"Aru will be the main leader because he's the one with the most experience. Pogačar is going to a race he doesn't know and is absolutely different from all the others. The goal for him is to learn and see how far he can go without any compromise."
After restarting at Strade Bianche, Pogačar will take on Milan-San Remo and Il Lombardia on either side of the Critérium du Dauphiné. After racing the Tour, he'll return to one-day races, including the Ardennes triple and a debut at the Tour of Flanders in late October.