As Arizona cycling fans watched 21-year-old Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) win the Tour de France last weekend in a time-trial stage upset, some couldn’t help but imagine the possibilities for his teammate Brandon McNulty.
The 22-year-old Phoenix native joined UAE Team Emirates in 2020, Pogačar in 2019 — both with impressive world championship and U23 results already under their belts. Might McNulty, who excels at time trials, one day have a race like Pogačar’s at the Tour?
“Of course I’d love to see him lead a team there, and I have no doubt he will,” said Lance Eddis-Finbow, a former local teammate and friend of McNulty’s. “I just think he needs time and grand tour miles in his legs first. I will be partying in Paris with him for sure. You can count on that.”
McNulty did not race in the Tour de France this year but has been training and racing with the team since his transfer from Rally UHC Cycling last year. Already he has acquired notable results during his rookie season as a World Tour and Grand Tour rider, coming in fourth on general classification at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina and seventh on GC at the Vuelta a Andalucía in Spain earlier in the year.
“It’s super exciting to be on the team that won the Tour,” McNulty told Clipped In. “It’s also pretty surreal and humbling. Obviously, I’ve grown up watching the Tour and have always viewed the guys winning in this star-like spotlight. Now it’s like I know Tadej and the whole team around him on a personal level and have seen that while they’re all incredible athletes, they’re still all normal guys just like me.”
Pogačar claimed the yellow leader’s jersey from fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) during Stage 20’s 36.7 km individual time trial. He also stole the polka dot jersey from Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) over the final climb and won the best young rider classification.
“I think it’s motivating to see guys my age winning the tour, and it definitely makes me train harder,” said McNulty, who added that he’s been to a few training camps with Pogačar. They were scheduled to race together earlier in the year before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, he said.
“Tadej is all around a pure class guy,” McNulty said. “Very soft-spoken and humble, but is also joking around a lot. He’s respectful to everyone and just a super good guy all around.”
McNulty, who has been in Europe since July, has been preparing for the World Championships beginning Thursday in Italy and the Giro d’Italia in October.
“I’m excited for worlds,” McNulty said. “It’s my first time in the elite category, so it will be a nice experience. My main focus is more on the Giro, but I’m coming in with some good form so hopefully I’ll have good legs and see how things go!”
Both Pogačar and McNulty are just beginning their World Tour careers with multiple years each signed with UAE.
The 2020 UCI Road World Championships will be available to watch online.
Photos from UAE Team Emirates