In an incredible climax to the Tour de France, Tadej Pogačar crushed fellow Slovenian Primož Roglič in the last stage on Saturday before the finish in Paris, all but guaranteeing that he”ll win the title at cycling’s greatest race.
Set to become the youngest champion since 1904, Pogačar – at a day shy of 22 – flew on the penultimate stage, an uphill time trial, devouring the 57-second lead that had made Roglič look impregnable before the showdown.
In the end, it wasn’t even close. Pogačar was sensational, not only ripping the iconic race leader’s yellow jersey from Roglič, but winning the time trial, too. Roglič managed no better than fifth, a whopping 1 minute, 56 seconds slower than his countryman.
This is Pogačar’s first Tour.
“Unbelievable, unbelievable,” Pogačar said. “My head will explode.”
Not since British riders Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome finished 1-2 at the 2012 Tour has one nation taken the top two spots.
But almost everyone – even Pogačar – had been expecting that Roglič would be rolling into Paris with the yellow jersey on his shoulders, on his way to becoming Slovenia’s first winner.
Roglič had taken the race lead on Stage 9 and held it all the way to Saturday, the worst day to lose it. He now trails Pogačar by 59 seconds.
“I cannot believe how hard it must be for him,” Pogačar said. “He must be devastated. But that’s bike racing.”
Only a major mishap on Sunday – highly unlikely – on what is traditionally a leisurely and ceremonial ride into Paris before the final sprint to the line will prevent Pogačar from taking over from 2019 winner Egan Bernal, who was at 22 the youngest champion since World War Two.
“I can’t wait to cross the line in Paris,” Pogačar said.
Australian Richie Porte will complete the podium, having ridden his way from fourth to third overall in the time trial to the Planches des Belles Filles ski station in eastern France. Porte is a veteran of 10 Tours, but he’d only once finished in the top 10 – a fifth place in 2016 – before now in a career sometimes dogged by ill-fortune.
The 30-year-old Roglič slumped on the tarmac at the finish as the enormity of his collapse sank in.