It is not easy for me to write, as writing is not exactly my hobby – but I would still like to share my experience from this year’s race with all who have been at the side of the roads or streaming the race on TV and cheered for me. If I had to reply how the race went in one single sentence, I would say: much harder than I/we have expected.

But let’s take it step by step. First, about my competition part:

The stage from Ljubljana to Rogaška Slatina looked the easiest on paper, a stage for sprinters – but in fact it wasn’t easy at all, and a far smaller group than expected came to the sprint. Many riders suffered from heat and cramps – another indication that this stage was far from easy. We had Ulissi in the breakaway and at least from this point of view we were out of problems in front of the race.

The second stage from Maribor to Celje had a similar scenario. I came to the bottom of the decisive climb on the front of the group, thanks to my team. Jan took care of the first selection in the first 2 km of the ascent, and then Ulissi and I had a job to continue. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel well even before the beginning of the stage, but I hoped to get better with kilometres covering. It seems that the heat and sultry slope took its toll. The new asphalt radiated heat and I felt like we were riding on a hot cooking plate. Maybe I also went too far into the “red zone” and later on I was cut off. Ulissi asked me if he can try, as he did I was not able to do anything more than just follow, I was struggling. Luckily, he again managed to escape, but unfortunately second group including myself caught up leading five riders before the finish line. At the top of the climb I was around 20 seconds behind the leading four. This was definitely the hardest part of all five days of the race! Then a small group behind managed to catch me. And at the end, because of the excessive flirting of those in leading positions, Luka Mezgec, who was part of this group, managed to pass them in the sprint and win this stage.

During the stage from Žalec to Idrija I was feeling better, and my legs were spinning more easily. The scenario was similar to those of the previous days: an escape that was caught before the decisive part, and before the end in Idrija the climb to Dole–very steep and selective in its first part. Only four of us left at the top: Ulissi, Vlasov, Chaves and me. Ulissi was feeling great and went on the attack. We agreed that he should try, and I would watch his back and follow the attacks from the chasing group. He managed to escape with Vlasov and together they continued to the finish line where Ulissi jumped across to the stage win with 2 kilometres to go. Diego celebrated his well-deserved victory of the stage plus green jersey of race leader. I just followed the first chasing group to the finish line and covered Ulissi’s back.

The initial good mood during the “queen” stage from Gorica to Ajdovščina was slightly interrupted by heavy rain at the beginning of this stage. I was feeling well on the early slopes and could control Vlasov who tried to go on the attack around one kilometre from the top; I managed to cover it. Together with Ulissi we just controlled the situation when approaching the finishing line and didn’t have any major problem with Vlasov’s and Visconti’s attempt.

We really raced well as a team and in all five stages there was not one single critical moment where we didn’t have a suitable solution. In each part of the race we were half a step before our competitors. We managed all tasks we agreed on before the start, and we all deserve the merit for our victory and the green and white jersey. Personally, I was very happy and honoured to help the team, as I could give back what they gave me for my two last big wins (California and Algarve). I didn’t win, but the personal satisfaction that I could help someone else to win means as much to me as any triumph. In this top level competition you have literally no chance without a team. Thanks to our team and my fellow Slovenian riders for an amazing week on our Slovenian roads.

The fans give me extra power!

Yes, and at the end I can’t ignore all fans – those at the side of the road who contributed to the racing spirit, and those who watched the race on TV and kept their fingers crossed for me. There were really so many of you, in all parts of our beautiful Slovenia. People often ask me does cheering bring any additional Watt of power. The answer is YES! Whenever you are at a limit and the body says it can’t go on, the head is the one that decides whether you will go on or give up. At this moment the fans lift you up and you add those few percent that distinguish the best ones from others. The differences are sooooooo small. After 808 km of racing I missed podium just for 5 seconds! This is why it helps! A big thank you to each and all of you for the loud cheering at the side of the road. See you, read you.

And I shouldn’t forget one more thing. A big thank you to the organisers of the race, led by Mr Bogdan Fink, and KK Adria Mobil, and to Slovenian Police, volunteers who make it possible for us to race on our Slovenian roads. You know the saying East or West, home is best. And this is sure and certain!

Tadej Pogačar