Tadej Pogacar Ready to Take the Second Tour de France Champion


On Saturday’s penultimate stage of the Tour de France, Tadej Pogacar crossed the Bordeaux region’s vineyards with prudence and distraction, confident that the final attempt this time would not change the rules of the game.

A year ago, he had used a similar race to turn things around in a time trial. last weekend compete. This year, for all intents and purposes, the business has already been done when it is off the starting line. Now he had to shut it down, avoid disaster, defend an impenetrable lead, and then transport him to Paris and receive his reward.

22-year-old Pogacar from Slovenia, who entered the traditionally celebrated final stage on Sunday with a margin of 5 minutes and 20 seconds, is certain to win the Tour de France for the second time in a row.

In fact, Pogacar will most likely take the podium three times in Paris on Sunday, wearing the yellow jersey for the overall winner, the polka dot jersey for the Tour’s best climber, and the white jersey for its best juniors. rider. He won the same three jerseys last year. Youngest winner of the tour in the post-World War II period.

The outcome of this year’s race has been known for days, and even after Pogacar finished eighth in Saturday’s time trial, Tour fans were under the overwhelming impression that there was limited competition for the 22-year-old.

In a sport where top performances are routinely marred by suspicion of cheating – a rival team’s bus and hotel Searched by French police this week As part of the doping investigation – a machine that could make its mark on Tour history, as past champions such as Pogacar, Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx have done – a whirlwind has been hailed as a champion. Merckx, 76, said this week that Pogacar is on track to at least five Tour de France titles; others said the race had entered the “Pogacar age”.

Perhaps more impressively, Pogacar competing for UAE Team Emirates has almost single-handedly beaten a team that has dominated the Tour over the past decade: the Ineos Grenadiers, formerly known as Team Sky. At the end of the first 10 days of the race, he had also outstripped his most serious rival, Primoz Roglic, and left the race after a slump in the first week of this year, which was second only to last year.

As of Saturday, Pogacar has won three stages, but his superiority is undisputed. Over the past three weeks, Pogacar has dominated his opponents in a time trial in Western France and knocked out their opponents on the tough climbs of the Alps. Then, this week, he claimed two impressive victories in the scenic landscapes of the Pyrenees, admiring — and raising eyebrows — the race’s two best contenders for the ease of playing them on the final miles of an eerie climb. .

“Is it a game for you?” A journalist asked Pogacar on Thursday after completing stage 18 at the top of Luz Ardiden ski resort, where he beat his two most serious rivals, Richard Carapaz and Jonas Vingegaard, by just a few strong steps.

“Yes, of course,” Pogacar replied with a grin. “I enjoy playing.”

Denmark’s Vingegaard and Team Jumbo-Visma looked ready to finish second in the overall classification; He will enter 1 minute 43 seconds ahead of Carapaz of Ineos on Sunday. There are no other drivers within 10 minutes of Pogacar.

For Pogacar, the game began on June 30, when he won his first individual time trial in the fifth stage. Three days later, the peloton was in the Alps and Pogacar was already winning the game, smashing their opponents. Stage 8 and grab the yellow jersey. He never gave up.

That day, he said, he told his teammates that they needed to “try to break the race”. And what he did broke the race: Pogacar’s 1-minute 48-second lead at the end of stage eight was over five minutes when the race reached southern France four days later.

Although Pogacar claimed that the race was not over, many knew then how it would end.

As the Peloton made its way on French roads, this year’s Tour still brought some unexpected moments. On the first day, a careless fan caused a serious accident with a cardboard slab that knocked dozens of cyclists onto the road; he is He will be tried in October.. pogacar Challenged during stage 7 In one of the most puzzling phases of recent years, it has left observers wondering if it can actually win. One day later it was a yellow jersey.

He was in full control this week, even as the shadow of the doping allegations returned when the police raided the hotels of the Bahrain Muzaffar team. The team had won two stages on the Tour, but is now the target of a doping investigation by local authorities in Marseille.

But all of these events will be secondary, at least on Sunday. The 2021 edition of the Tour will be remembered as the tour where Pogacar no longer turned from a surprise to an unstoppable champion.

His prowess was fully demonstrated on Wednesday and Thursday, when he won two consecutive stages in the Pyrénées.

On the final ascents of Stage 17 to the Col du Portet, Carapaz attempted to cross Pogacar, leading an attack less than a mile from the finish line. As Carapaz grimaced in pain and drove himself in one last move for the yellow jersey and began to crackle, Pogacar clung to his rear wheel, calm and almost expressionless.

Just 330 feet away, Pogacar came up behind him, he accelerated and it was gone. His opponents – Carapaz and Vingegaard – were left behind in a matter of seconds, as if instantly frozen.

It was Pogacar’s first victory in the yellow jersey on the Tour, and he repeated the feat on stage 18 on Thursday, accelerating with less than half a mile remaining, dropping once again on a difficult climb up a 14 percent incline. Vingegaard and Carapaz in seconds.

That day, I felt like the driver in a car had just overtaken a group of cyclists. “Incredible” Pogacar I said. And for many, back-to-back performances are hard to believe.

Pogacar’s success was so impressive that observers clearly aroused some skepticism. french newspaper Le Monde He wrote that his performances as “a vulture in the flock” had the “doping taboo” flying over him, comparing his seemingly effortless exploits to those of disgraced ex-champion Lance Armstrong.

And on Friday, after the anonymous riders told the Swiss newspaper Le Temps what you heard”strange soundsPogacar, who came from the motorcycle for four teams, including Pogacar’s UAE squad, said he “didn’t know what to say”.

“We don’t use anything illegal,” he added.

Pogacar has never tested positive for illegal substances. Instead, he will likely be re-crowned for what he was on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday: one of the best drivers of his generation.

This year, rather than a late turn, everyone saw his victory come weeks. But his next challenge isn’t far away: Pogacar will race on the lower slopes of Mount Fuji for the men’s road race gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics next Saturday against compatriot Roglic, Carapaz from Ecuador, and dozens of other Tour rivals.


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