BELLANTE, Italy (VN) — With Brandon McNulty winning solo at Paris-Nice and Tadej Pogačar powering to victory at Tirreno-Adriatico, UAE Emirates is flying hot out of the gates in 2022.
The two-time defending Tour de France champion is unstoppable so far in 2022, and McNulty is coming of age in his third season at the WorldTour level. The American kicked to his first WorldTour victory across the Alps in France.
Pogačar was impressed.
“I am super happy for Brandon because he did not start Paris-Nice very well,” Pogačar said. “To come back like this with a win is really great. I just got the news directly after the finish, so I was happy double-time, and it was a great day for our team.”
McNulty was part of Pogačar’s 2021 Tour de France-winning team, and with the race way’s racing so far this spring, he is looking like a lock for a return ticket in July. McNulty won two races early this year before powering out of a breakaway to win at Paris-Nice.
Tadej Pogačar WINS Stage 4 of Tirreno Adriatico 💪
He followed the moves and went clear in the final few hundred metres to take the victory! 💨
— Velon CC (@VelonCC) March 10, 2022
Barely an hour later, Pogačar poured on the gasoline to power away from an elite group on a short but explosive uphill finale to take over the leader’s jersey at Tirreno-Adriatico.
The win comes hot off the heels of Pogačar’s stunning solo victory at Strade Bianche and his season-opening win at UAE Tour.
Is Pogačar emerging as the peloton’s new patron? He seems to win at will, but so far, hasn’t proven charitable in giving away any flowers.
On Thursday, the leader’s jersey was on the line at Tirreno, and he already made it loud and clear that defending his title was his first major goal of 2022.
“When there’s no need to win, there’s no need to win,” he said. “Like today, there was no one taking responsibility to pull. Our team was 200km on the front, and you have to repay the work in some way to the guys.”
New recruits give Pogačar even more firepower
UAE Team Emirates is emerging as the peloton’s newest “super team.”
A slew of new signings, including João Almeida, George Bennett, Pascal Ackermann, and Marc Soler give even more depth to UAE Team Emirates for 2022.
The team is united around Pogačar, who seems like an unstoppable force in the peloton so far this season.
Mikkel Bjerg, who also raced alongside Pogačar at the 2021 Tour, said the mood is upbeat inside the team bus.
“It’s a big motivation to try to be in top shape to be ready for the Tour, but I think maybe we have 20 or 25 guys who could make the Tour de France team,” Bjerg said. “It’s going to be really hard to make the selection. The best guys there will hopefully guide Tadej to a third victory.”
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) March 10, 2022
For nearly a decade, Sky/Ineos carried the banner and set the tempo across the peloton. Teams started playing catch up, with Jumbo-Visma also elbowing in at the top of the hierarchy.
Ineos Grenadiers are defending the podium at Tirreno with Ganna slipping from first to third, and Tao Geoghegan Hart moving up into podium range with fifth. Jumbo-Visma is leading at Paris-Nice with Primož Roglič, and Ineos slotted Dani Martínez into fourth.
When asked how he views the team hierarchy, Pogačar insisted he races to win, not against a certain rider or team.
“I was worried about a lot of people, like all 30 or how many there were in the final,” Pogačar said. “It was that kind of a climb if you sit up for a moment and someone attacks and you don’t follow, it can go to the finish. I was worried about all the riders in the final who were there. It was great for us that we didn’t have to worry in the last 100 meters.
“There isn’t any fight between Jumbo and UAE,” Pogačar said. “Today they came to help to pull toward the second half, sometimes you need to work together, and sometimes need to race against each other. That’s just how it is.”
Pogačar is cycling’s new king of the hill. And with his improving team growing up around him, he might be there for a while.