Defending champion Tadej Pogačar will miss tomorrow’s edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège after returning home to Slovenia to support his fiancée and fellow professional cyclist Urška Žigart following the death of her mother.
“Sadly I won’t be at the start of Liege-Bastogne-Liege tomorrow to defend my title,” the two-time Tour de France winner announced on social media this morning.
“It’s been a tough few days but I’d like to thank everybody for their understanding. A special thank you to UAE Team Emirates and especially to Mauro Gianetti and Team President Matar for their support in this situation.”
Sadly I won't be at the start of @LiegeBastogneL tomorrow.
It's been a tough few days but I'd like to thank everybody for their understanding
— Tadej Pogačar (@TamauPogi) April 23, 2022
Pogačar and Žigart had flown back to Slovenia earlier this week, though his UAE Team Emirates squad initially expected their star rider to return in time for cycling’s oldest monument on Sunday.
Žigart, who was also scheduled to line up in Liège on Sunday for her BikeExchange-Jayco team, confirmed earlier this week that her mother had passed away due to cancer.
“Life is not fair sometimes. It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I share with you this news today,” she wrote on Instagram.
“My mom was my best friend and the most important person in my life. This is a very hard time for me and my family as we experience this loss and I kindly ask you for some privacy. Thank you for all the messages and support.”
Pogačar’s victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège from a five-rider sprint formed an early part of one of cycling’s greatest ever individual seasons, with the 23-year-old taking two of the sport’s five monument classics (adding Il Lombardia later in the autumn) along with a second, dominant Tour de France win.
The UAE Team Emirates rider has had an equally sparkling start to 2022, with wins at the UAE Tour, Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico, while also playing a major role in Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders, despite ultimately falling short in both races.
After a relatively subpar 12th place at Wednesday's Flèche Wallonne, where the shorter distance and slow-motion sprint atop the Mur de Huy counted against him, Pogačar was set to take the start on Sunday as a red-hot favourite.
He will be replaced in the UAE Team Emirates squad by the American rider Brandon McNulty, with Marc Hirschi likely to take on the leadership role vacated by the Slovenian star.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.