Tadej Pogacar adds the Walloon Arrow to his collection of classics | Sports

Pogacar begins to raise his arms, victorious, while Skjelmose and Landa fight behind.
Pogacar begins to raise his arms, victorious, while Skjelmose and Landa fight behind.Geert Vanden Wijngaert (AP)

Nature imitates art and four hours later Tadej Pogacar, at the foot of the Huy wall, imitates the Dutch Demi Vollering, who attacks below, resists, attacks again and wins alone.

Perhaps Mavi García is right, fourth on top of the Belgian fault in the Ardennes with which the plain of the country plane collides abruptly and where it ends, via the path of the chapels and its Way of the Cross, the Wallonian Arrow, when she reflects and He says that, deep down, the new men’s cycling, the one that falls in love with its wild, daring air, with figures of such character such as Pogacar, Van der Poel, Van Aert and others, was born only as an imitation of women’s cycling, the absence of calculation, the fear not of losing but of not winning.

Vollering, winner this spring of the Strade Bianche and the Amstel, dominates the women’s classics like Pogacar, god, he dominates all men’s cycling, a fist like Eddy Merckx’s, and the same resignation of his rivals. “This morning I said that my objective was to finish second behind Pogacar and I have achieved it”, says Mattias Skjelmose, a Dane from the year 2000, with talent and a future, happy for his second place “behind who will perhaps become the best cyclist of history”. “It’s hard to think of anything better than finishing second in the races in which he participates.” A cat playing with mice, the television commentators give up, who are first excited because, 500 meters from the top, and the slope is approaching at 20%, they see Pogacar, well seated in the saddle, condemned, sentenced, while the others –Bardet, Woods, Ciccone, Landa too–, boisterous, move and accelerate, and then they are left speechless because Pogacar too lift your ass and accelerate, and in two pedal strokes on the vertical asphalt he takes everyone five meters out, in the true style of Valverde, the modern king of the Arrow. Thus, he adds a new classic to his collection. Behind they toil in the sprint and Skjelmose and Mikel Landa, third, calculate the best position on the Arrow in the life of the Basque climber, who lives a joyous spring at 33 years of age. “Pogacar is superior,” says Landa. “I’m super happy. He could have been second perhaps, but never first. Someone has to be first among mortals, and it is good to be able to fight for it.

Pogacar is a chameleon. The great imitator, and a little more. Win on all terrains the way specialists win. If you have to win on the Arrow, he does it like Valverde or Alaphilippe; in Flanders as Van der Poel or Van Aert, whom he discourages; on the Tour, like Merckx, whose steps he follows and multiplies, and runs guided by an extreme carpe diem, courtesy, perhaps, of his belonging to the Zeta generation, the same spirit of Max Verstappen, Jon Rahm or Carlos Alcaraz, the most youngest of all, the lighthouse, who does not play a ball that does not seek the lines with maximum speed and affirms that no matter how it goes, he will never play with the handbrake on. “I always want to win because I have a lot of fun doing it. I just try to enjoy the moment as much as I can”, says the 24-year-old Slovenian, not a trace of sweat on his serene and calm face, and smiling, rosy cheeks, his light hair tousled, and the unruly lock that always peeks out of his slits in the helmet, and he even recounts as an amusing anecdote how he was one centimeter from losing everything when, 21 kilometers from the finish line, there was a big fall in his area, and how Rojas, to his left, brushed against him in his fall and he was able to dodge Janssens in front. “What chaos, how many nerves. But I was able to get out of the mess very well ”.

The old people, always worried, always with doubts in the cerebellum, have asked him if so much effort is not counterproductive, that not even a month ago he won in Flanders and last Sunday he won the Amstel and next Sunday comes Liège, the most It lasts for all of them, and in two and a half months the Tour, which he wants so much. The old men, of course, talk about Merckx, the cannibal who won everything, and several times, but who was not even able to win Flanders, Amstel and Flecha in the same year, as Pogacar has done. They also talk about Davide Rebellin and Philippe Gilbert, the only two in history to have won the so-called Ardennes triptych in the same year –Amstel, Flecha, Liège–, and they wonder aloud if Pogacar will enter the club of the Italian, recently deceased hit by a truck, and the Belgian, recently retired. Pogacar is not allowed to doubt. “Sunday will be different,” he says of La Dean, the oldest monument, which he already won two years ago — in 2022 he did not participate — and where Remco Evenepoel, last year’s winner, recently descended from Teide, awaits him. . “Harder, more hours, longer climbs… Let’s see, let’s see”. He responds as he always responds in the previous ones. The fans do not doubt either, and only his heart wonders if it would not be better to see the invincible lose one day and give hope to those who resign themselves.

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