Tadej Pogačar is above the level of five-time Tour de France winners Bernard Hinault and even Eddy Merckx, according to legendary coach Cyrille Guimard.
The Frenchman, who won the Tour with Hinault, Laurent Fignon and Lucien Van Impe before becoming a television commentator, has said in a recent column that he “does not hesitate to compare [Pogačar] to the greatest”.
“One of the things that I noticed with Pogačar is that you always have the impression that he is [simply] riding his bike, no matter what the race conditions are. He never fights,” Guimard said in Cyclism’Actu.
“Even when it is full-on, he does not give the impression of putting in maximum effort, he gives an impression of fluidity and ease. It’s quite funny to see. There was Hinault, Merckx…is he the same calibre as these legends? Given his record, I would even say that he is above it. He is only 22 years old and has already won the Tour, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and came third in the Vuelta at 20, in which he also won three stages.”
Guimard adds, however, that we will have to wait and see how Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) recovers from his injuries to decide who is the best out of both young talents.
“To say that [Pogačar] is the best rider in the world…we have to wait to see Remco Evenepoel, who has been absent since his fall in Il Lombardia last year,” Guimard said.
“You have to tell yourself one thing, it is that before this fall, Evenepoel was undefeated, he had won all the races in which he had participated. So let’s wait and see Evenepoel come back to his best level, and if he comes back to his best level, who will be able to beat him?
“When you know his qualities in the mountains and in the time trial…but he struggles downhill, and I think his fall in Lombardia will not help matters. But if he learns to descend and he no longer has this weakness, it will be difficult to trap him. So Pogačar or Evenepoel? We will wait a little bit. And let’s not condemn Egan Bernal either.”
The 74-year-old, who was described by another of his protégé’s Greg LeMond as “the best coach I ever had”, says that Tom Pidcock is one more young rider he has his eye on and that the 21-year-old Brit is capable of winning multiple Grand Tours.
“Is he capable of winning several Grand Tours? Why not. Let us not forget that he is only 21 years old and his track record is already very, very rich. He won Paris-Roubaix in the juniors and in the U23s, which already ranks the talent of this rider, but he also won the baby Giro by dropping everyone,” Guimard said.
“And he’s a boy who is right behind Van Aert and Van der Poel in cyclocross today. He can do practically everything, now he’s even going to go mountain biking for fun. The problem is that today there is competition in the Grand Tours with Bernal, Pogačar and Evenepoel, who are also all very young. There are several riders of the same generation who can all win the Tour over the next ten years.”