Welcome to planet Pog – CyclingTips

Welcome to planet Pog, where the air is thin, the gravity strangely low, and the shirts, for some reason, only come in yellow.

Today was an unusual day near the end of an unusual week, yet the feats before us feel almost normal. What we’re seeing extends well into the realm of the superlative, into a place that becomes difficult to define and describe with the language of everyday bike racing. It is dominance in a way the sport has not seen in the modern era, since the age of athletic specialization began. If Wout van Aert is breaking the rules, Tadej Pogačar is ignoring them completely.

“The style of how people race at the moment, it’s a different world,” BikeExchange-Jayco director Matt White tells CyclingTips. “We have a different generation of riders, the old rulebook how things used to be done, are thrown out the window.”

Rule 1 of that old book dictated that one could be good in the Alps or good on cobblestones but not good at both at the same time. Rule 1b clarified that some riders could transition from one to the other over a period of time, à la Brad Wiggins, but something needs to be lost on either end. One rider cannot do it all.

Tadej Pogačar separated himself from all but Jasper Stuyven on the cobblestones on Wednesday, he out kicked Michael Matthews atop a short climb on Thursday, and, on Friday, with his parents and girlfriend at the top of La Planche des Belles Filles, it feels extremely likely that his will be the first face they see crest the mountain. He wins Lombardia and Strade Bianche, attacking downhill. He very nearly takes the Tour of Flanders. He is simply better than everyone, almost everywhere.

“We aren’t surprised,” his UAE Team Emirates teammate Rafał Majka said after the stage, referring to Pogačar’s stage win. “Yesterday he demonstrated on the cobbles that he can ride with anyone. We’re not afraid of anyone.”

Everyone, at this point, should be afraid of Pogačar. No rider is unbeatable, not even him, but this level of dominance across this range of skills and disciplines is remarkable.

Even old hands (forgive the phrase Matt) like White stand stunned at what they see. He’s never seen anything like it.

“No, I wasn’t following cycling when Eddy Merckx was around, I wasn’t born,” he says when asked if he’s seen this level of early dominance before. “No, not in my lifetime, the style of how people race at the moment, it’s a different world.”

A different world, but one we’ve been living in for three years already. Welcome back to planet Pog. We’re going to be here for a while.

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