Today, 5 February the stage race around Valencia – officially the »Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana« begins, and Tadej Pogačar, UAE Team Emirates, will be also starting his season here. Another Slovenian will be participating in this race – Jan Polanc. There will be five stages; two hilly, two flat and one mountain; all will take place near Valencia in Spain. On the day before the race begins, we were talking to Tadej at the velodrome in Valencia, where he was making tests and settings on the time trial bicycle. We asked him a few questions

How were the preparations for this season?

The preparations for the new season were running as planned and the weather was quite favourable. We held two training camps, each lasting for a week, with the entire team participating. The first in the Emirates and the second in Spain. Then I had some trainings at the French Cote d’Azur, and I finished with altitude training in Sierra Nevada a bit more than a week ago. I think I trained well and managed to use the better training conditions than those I would have at home.

There are a few new riders on your team. Are these the reinforcements you also wished? Have you had the opportunity to meet them, maybe do some training together?

Yes, there are quite a few new names on the team, and I hope we will achieve even more and better results; and I hope for an even better support when I need it. Everyone quickly became part of the team and so the atmosphere is right. At the second team training camp in Benidorm we had quite some trainings together with some of them, so we got to know each other better

Do you see any advancement in the team compared to the previous season?

Surely, because everyone involved tries to make a step forward. The fact that some young talented riders were added to the team shows that we plan for the long term. The team sponsors presented themselves at the group preparations, and each in their own way presented the methods to improve or develop certain things. This event today at the velodrome where we performed tests and settings of the bicycles for the time trial shows that we would like to pay attention to all details and not leave anything to chance.

Today you are starting your first race this year. How well are you prepared at the moment?

I think I am prepared quite well, but it is hard to estimate more precisely because I had a long pause from races. But after this week we will see how well it was and how to continue.

What do you expect from this first race of the year?

I hope that we will do well as a team. At the moment our teammates who are riding at the races across Argentina and Saudi Arabia are doing very well, and we hope for a similar result here. We are well-prepared and motivated; we have a great sprinter in Kristoff and we will do whatever we can to achieve as much as possible. As for myself, I wish to return successfully to the racing rhythm, but we will see on Sunday what this will mean in the end.

You are probably aware of the fact that in your group you will no longer be a newcomer, but for most one of the winner candidates. What do you think of this fact which you won’t be able to avoid in the future?

Yes, I am no longer a newcomer and probably the others think I am a winner candidate. I am not burdened by this, especially not after such a long pause from racing. Today we will all start from zero, and at the stages we will have to fight and do whatever is possible. I have no idea where this will bring me in the end – but I know I will be happy if I manage to squeeze out of myself whatever is possible, given my current fitness.

The race across Valencia will take place from Wednesday, 5 February, until Sunday, 9 February.