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Andrew got Pogačar Week started in fine form by taking stock of the fan experience in the early days of this brave new era that the young Slovenian Tour de France champion is suddenly stamping his authority all over. Tadej the Great is being fitted for every crown imaginable right now after his commanding performance in Tirreno-Adriatico, a race which is only won by the sport’s greatest champions, like Simon Yates, Nairo Quintana, Greg Van Avermaet… you get my point.
All passive-aggressive kidding aside, Pogačar is undoubtedly manipulating one very important part of cycling in rather extreme ways — the 2022 FSA Directeur Sportif Men’s competition. Pogs is on a whopping 422 teams and is easily the top scorer right now — the situation is so extreme that as of today, every single team ranked in the top 77 of the men’s competition has Pogačar as their lodestar. We have had exactly 30 race days, which means there are… 342 left to go. So if you want to pump the brakes on this phenomenon, OK. But the eye test is scary. Especially for the 437 teams who passed on the Slovenian Genius. And to those 437 teams — this post is for you.
[Sitting bravely in 78th place is BeNNfica, the highest-ranked team to take a pass on Pog. BeNNfica went all lower-priced and so far has hit the jackpot. With nobody costing more than 14 points, they have 13 riders scoring more than 100 points, led by Guillaume Martin and Pello Bilbao north of 400, and Fabio Jakobsen at 300. At 3260 points, BeNNfica is 700 points out of the overall lead, which isn’t a ton, but still represents a mountain to climb.]
Can you survive without Pogačar? That is the question. And I think the answer is yes, but it won’t be easy. Let’s start with the present. You can easily put together a non-Pog team of everyone who has gotten off to a hot start, possibly with Wout Van Aert as the double-restricted guy and definitely with Jonas Vingegaard as your single-restricted guy, and assemble a team that is currently winning the competition. You have about as good a chance of assembling an NCAA basketball tournament bracket that hits on 100% of the games. And winning the competition on March 14 is not the point. But this alone is a sign that all hope, however faint, is not lost.
What really matters is where this is going. Pogačar’s 1,236 points is 198 more than he had at this point last year — reflecting an increase in points at Strade (+150) and UAE Tour (+50). But assuming he repeats hisNFL Clear Bags usual schedule (and check me on this if he isn’t, apart from the spring classics), well, his major classics wins from 2021 will be hard to repeat, and he has nowhere to go but down at the two biggest points chaches (Liege and Lombardia), plus the Olympics coming off the calendar. Sure, he’s showing up at MSR and Flanders, so maybe you can add back some points there, but apart from cleaning up his spring efforts and hoping to repeat his glorious summer, do we really think Pogs is going to significantly increase his totals?