History was made for the UAE on Sunday, as 20-year-old Tadej Pogacar stepped onto the Vuelta a Espana podium and proudly displayed the country’s flag on his jersey as he celebrated a landmark third place finish at one of the biggest bike races in the world.
As he raised his hands in triumph, he became the first rider in UAE Team Emirates colours to ever grace the podium steps of a Grand Tour.
Fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic secured Vuelta victory to become his country’s first Grand Tour winner.
Roglic was confirmed as champion after completing the largely-ceremonial final stage from Fuenlabrada to Madrid.
The 29-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider ended up two minutes and 16 seconds ahead of Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the general classification, with Pogacar third.
Pogacar’s remarkable performance during the 21-day tour of Spain will also be remembered for his three spectacular stage wins, along with his winning of the coveted white jersey, which is given to the best young rider in the race.
His achievements marked the first Grand Tour podium for UAE Team Emirates since its inception in 2017 and took the team’s tally of Grand Tour stage victories to eight. Four of these have been won at La Vuelta, two at the Giro d’Italia and two at the Tour de France.
Pogacar said: “These last three weeks have been incredible. The whole of UAE Team Emirates has supported me really well to get to this point and I owe a lot of thanks to them.
History was made for #UAETeamEmirates 🇦🇪 today, as @tadejpogacar 🇸🇮 stepped onto the #LaVueta19 podium to celebrate a landmark third place finish at one of the biggest bike races in the world.— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamUAEAbuDhabi) September 15, 2019
📝Full report with quotes: https://t.co/1HFPZqb0Yn#RideTogether #YearofTolerance pic.twitter.com/6159dFElBb
“To finish on the podium in the Vuelta is unbelievable and to be able to do it next to the world champion and Primoz Roglic is even more amazing.
“A lot of friends and family have come from home to see me in Madrid so for me this day was the perfect end to an amazing three weeks for me and for the team.”
Matar Al Dhaheri, president of UAE Team Emirates, praised the team, saying: “Today was a very special day. It is the culmination of a lot of hard work and self-belief.
“Since we started the team – with amazing support from the UAE and our sponsors – it has been our goal to become the best team in professional cycling. Today we took another very big step towards that goal and I am immensely proud of what we have achieved.
“Tadej Pogacar has been a revelation for us. As we look to the future it is important to invest in young riders that can not only win races, but can inspire young people in the UAE to get behind the team and get into cycling themselves. That is our goal.”
Mauro Gianetti, the team’s CEO, added: “Pogacar is an unbelievable talent and has proved he is a superstar in the making, but we must not forget that cycling is a team sport.
“We could not have achieved these victories without the commitment and contribution of all the riders, sports directors, backroom staff, family members and friends that have supported the team all season.”
The Emirati formation, which is named after its two co-title sponsors – the UAE and Emirates airlines – has now established itself as one of the most formidable teams on the WorldTour with 26 wins under its belt already this season.
In addition to the one day wins, stage successes and GC glory, UAE Team Emirates was also able to hold the pink ‘Maglia Rosa’ leaders jersey for 10 days during the first Grand Tour of the season – the Giro.
Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic secured Vuelta a Espana victory on Sunday to become his country’s first Grand Tour winner.
Having effectively wrapped up the triumph by finishing the penultimate stage with the overall lead a day earlier, Roglic was confirmed as champion after completing the largely-ceremonial final stage from Fuenlabrada to Madrid.
The 29-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider ended up two minutes and 16 seconds ahead of Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the general classification, while Roglic’s compatriot Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) was third.
Sunday’s stage was won by Holland’s Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), who crossed the line just ahead of Irishman Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) in a sprint finish.
Roglic told Eurosport: “I am a little tired but it is just a great feeling that we won a nice race in cycling. I’m really happy that we finished it off.
“I still have a lot of things to do, and I am already thinking about other things, not just enjoying this moment.”
Twenty-year-old white jersey winner Pogacar, who won three stages in what was his first Grand Tour, said: “It is really unbelievable.
“I still can’t imagine that I was just standing on the podium next to world champion Valverde and one of the biggest Grand Tour riders, Primoz Roglic. It is an incredible feeling.
“It is really amazing how much we moved the cycling in Slovenia, and to be on the podium, two guys, one winning, it is really impressive.”
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UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogacar continued his unbelievable run of form on Stage 16 of this year’s Vuelta a Espana, by digging deep on the final climb of the day to help drop Alejandro Valverde.
Movistar’s Valverde currently sits above Pogacar in second place in the General Classification with a lead that has now been reduced to 54 seconds.
The stage from Pravia to Alto de la Cubilla Lena featured three classified climbs and the action for the GC men was reserved for the last one. As the breakaway men contested the stage victory, which was eventually taken by Jakob Fuglsang, of Astana, the GC riders eyed each other up on the 17.8km climb that led to another summit finish.
With 4km to go Miguel Angel Lopez, also of Astana, attacked the group in an attempt to distance Pogacar, who leads him in both the overall and youth classification. However the young Slovenian was able to match Lopez’s accelerations – as was the race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma). The three riders eventually worked as a unit and crossed the line together to put time into Valverde and the rest of their GC rivals.
Pogacar remains third in the GC, but has closed the gap on second place by 23 seconds. He also remains in the white youth classification jersey ahead of the final rest day of the tour.
Pogacar said: “Today was a tough day, above all in the finale when Lopez attacked me several times. I gave everything I had to follow him and it went well at the end. It will be a really exciting duel until the last day.
“Today was also a good day because I gained some time on Valverde, and also maintained my advantage on Lopez. I’m tired, I think like everyone, in the morning and after the stage, but I continue to feel good during the race. I hope to be at the top in the last week too.”
After the rest day the race heads from Aranda de Duero to Guadalajara for a 219.6km flat stage, which is likely to end in a bunch sprint finish.
Stage 16 results:
1 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 4:19:04
2 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos +0:22”
3 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana +0:40”
14 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates +5:58”
General Classification after Stage 16:
1 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo Visma 62:17:52”
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar +2:48”
3 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates +3:42”