In a dramatic last-gasp turnaround Tadej Pogacar on Saturday won the Tour de France as the overnight leader Primoz Roglic suffered a mountainside meltdown during a thrilling individual time-trial on the last day of real racing.
It was a staggering end to a bizarre Tour and the penultimate stage duel between two compatriots of different generations is to go down as one of this year’s great sporting moments.
The 21-year-old Pogacar was to lead the peloton into Paris yesterday wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey and, barring a freak disaster, would climb onto the top step of the podium.
“I cried, I’m sure I’ll cry again,” said Roglic, who led the race 12 days before wilting at the final hurdle.
Staggeringly, the Pogacar would also pull on the polka dot jersey as best climber on the Tour, and also the white one as best under-25s rider.
“I’m just a kid from Slovenia,” he said.
“I could hear nothing on the final climb and I went for it with everything,” he said.
Often unlucky Australia’s veteran Richie Porte climbed to third overall to make the Tour podium for the first time, while Spain’s Mikel Landa and Enric Mas rounded out the top five with strong finishes too.
“It was such a sweet moment,” Porte, 35, said.
He had considered staying home as his wife was expecting a baby, he said.
“She told me to go, but didn’t want to see me at the back of the peloton,” he added.
Roglic, 30, had led the Tour since stage nine and his dramatic meltdown on the final climb means even as loser he remains the big story.
“I had a bad day, he deserved his win. I’m disappointed, but I can be proud of second place,” Roglic said.
“I don’t have a clear mind, it is how it is,” he said. “I struggled with everything, I just didn’t have enough power out there.”
The defeated man was big enough to collect himself and congratulate the winner.
“He’ll be a great rider now for the next ten years,” he predicted.
Pogacar is also set to become the youngest postwar champion as a generational shift takes hold of cycling with a string of young stage winners.
In a key moment the UAE Team Emirates rider changed bikes, which took 12 seconds, after the 30km rolling section to tackle the 6km eight percent climb at top speed.
Roglic only decided to change bikes once he began to crumble fast, but it became painfully clear he was in for a horrible finale.
Dressed in yellow for the first time after covering the 36km in 55 minutes, 55 seconds Pogacar said that he could hardly think let alone answer questions.
The defeat comes as a bombshell for Jumbo-Visma, but the rookie’s performance will go down as one of the all-time-great turnarounds.
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