“One of the most talented human beings to ever ride a bicycle,” proclaimed Eurosport’s Rob Hatch of Tadej Pogacar, as the Slovenian comfortably sewed up his second Monument of the season.
This is not something that should be reasonably sayable of a rider less than three years into his professional career. Not without it being laced with an intoxicating dose of hyperbole.
Rob Hatch, however, is not in the business of exaggeration, and few would argue that Tadej Pogacar has not already arrived among the legends of the sport.
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His results mean the only riders whose company he’s in are those almost mythical beings, those whose feats are so accomplished, so distant in our memories, that they’re almost unimaginable. Hinault, Merckx, Coppi. Tadej Pogacar is matching them here, now, in front of our very eyes.
And he’s barely gotten started.

Highlights: Pogacar matches Coppi and Merckx with Il Lombardia success

Speculation is a dangerous game, but it’s very hard not to project forward and imagine how much Pogacar might achieve not even over the course of his entire career, but in merely the next stage of it.

He were to merely maintain his current rate of accomplishment, he would join the five-time Tour winners club comfortably before aging out of the white jersey competition. It takes no imaginatory leaps whatsoever to picture him adding another two, three or four Monuments to his palmares in that period as well. Obviously the two he’s already won are within reach, if not made for him, but a Milan-Sanremo title is perfectly possible. A worlds title will depend somewhat on the course - the next couple look like they won’t quite have enough climbing - but sooner or later the UCI will come up with one that suits this superstar to a tee. Merckx managed three. The rainbow question hanging over Pogacar’s head is not if or even when, but how many?
A somewhat terrifying question to consider is what if Pogacar were to not merely maintain the level he has already reached, but to develop beyond it? 23 is, after all, rarely the age that a rider's performance peaks. In fact the mean average age of a Tour de France winner - which might arguably be seen to reflect a high point - is 28. At some point he will ride more than one Grand Tour in a season. The obvious first port of call is La Vuelta - which will likely come at the expense of Primoz Roglic’s impressive run in that event - but would grant him membership to a rather less prestigious club than if he were to ride - and win - the Giro d’Italia.

Although the Giro and Tour double is frequently spoken about, and even occasionally attempted, the only riders to have actually achieved it are all those riders who go by only one name: Merckx, Hinault, Anquetil, Roche, Indurain and Pantani. Perhaps the less said about the murky circumstances surrounding the last of these the better, but that particular double was completed exactly 50 days before Pogacar was even born.
Again, the question will not ultimately be if Pogacar will win the other Grand Tours, but how many of them? Another, similar area of speculation is when he will enter a class of his own of Tour de France wins, and what number he will eventually settle on.
The only open questions left surround the records he won’t be able to break, the milestones he probably can’t manage to reach, over the course of his career.
Could he win all five Monuments? Probably not. Paris-Roubaix, although clearly winnable without experience, will surely always remain the preserve of riders with physical characteristics Pogacar will never possess. Likewise Flanders.

How about the most Tour de France stage wins, though? Pogacar already has six from two appearances. Continuing that trajectory could see him at 35, surpassing Eddy, by 2030.
Fanciful, you might say, with a knowing nod in the direction of Mark Cavendish. You might also be right, except wouldn’t you have said the same before the Slovenian’s GC-winning time trial last year on the Planche des Belles Filles?
Sure, someone else might come along who can beat him but how many once-in-a-generation riders can there be in each generation? Tadej Pogacar is one who is living history.

‘It’s crazy to finish like this’ – Pogacar after making history at Il Lombardia

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