Tadej Pogačar wins Tour de France

Tadej Pogačar makes history in the Tour de France.

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Tadej Pogačar makes history in the Tour de France.

Puneet Bansal, Contributing Reporter

In the most exciting Tour de France of the past few years, Tadej Pogačar, only a day before his 22nd birthday, won the coveted yellow jersey presented to the overall winner of the race, becoming the first Slovenian rider to do so, and the youngest rider to win since 1904. 

Pogačar dominated this year’s race, winning the “King of the Mountains” and “Best Young Rider” jerseys as well. Sam Bennett clinched the green “Sprint Points” jersey after an epic battle against seven-time winner Peter Sagan.

This year’s Tour was drastically different from prior years. Due to the global pandemic and growing health concerns for athletes, the race was postponed from July to the end of August. The overall route was also more difficult: It was incredibly Alps-heavy and eight of the 21 stages included mountain-top finishes. The team time-trial stage was removed, leaving only the individual time-trial stage. Amid some personal concerns and worries surrounding COVID-19, some riders opted out of the Tour early on. This included two former champions, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. 

All these changes created an air of volatility: it was clear that anything could happen in this Tour, and it certainly did not disappoint.

From the start, hectic battles erupted in every stage. Through the first nine stages, the yellow jersey changed hands three times. Once the Tour moved into the mountains, the time gap between the top contenders widened. The yellow jersey settled on the shoulders of Primož Roglič, winner of the 2019 Vuelta a España. Pogačar, meanwhile, was riding silently into second place for the white jersey and crawling through the top ten for the overall standings.

Simultaneously, the fight for the green jersey was ablaze between Bennett and Sagan. The two rivals traded the sprint jersey every few stages, their point totals always staying close. In stage 10, Bennett outsprinted Sagan at the finish and took a substantial lead. Sagan and his Bora-Hansgrohe team, determined as ever to put Sagan back in the green jersey, started taking control of the peloton and pushed the pace in the next few stages. The goal of this tactic, implemented primarily in hilly stages, was to tire the other sprinters and drop them from the main group. Sagan, the best hill climber among the sprinters, would have a definitive advantage at the finish line sprint. 

Bora’s efforts were incredibly strong, but Sagan didn’t perform as expected. Consistently, he lost intermediate sprints and the sprint stages to Bennett, allowing Bennett’s lead to grow over the second half of the Tour.

On the other hand, the up-tempo pacing forced upon the Tour riders created chaos for the yellow jersey contenders. Several dropped out of the top ten since they could not keep up with the faster pace.

Pogačar, however, persisted through the turmoil. His performances leading up to his triumphant stage 15 win catapulted him into the white jersey and second place overall. Before the 20th stage, Pogačar maintained his second position in the overall competition, behind Roglič by 57 seconds. He also increased his lead for the “Best Young Rider” jersey and climbed into the top three for the mountain jersey.

The penultimate stage of the Tour de France was an individual time trial, a 36.2 km-long route with a steep uphill finish. This was Pogačar’s final chance to challenge Roglič for the yellow jersey. 

Pogačar started his time trial strong and incrementally accelerated until reaching the base of the mountain. Roglič, on the other hand, crumbled midway through the route. By the time Roglič reached the final 5.6 km of the final climb, he was already a minute behind Pogačar who was flying through the climb. 

The young Slovenian completed the entire distance in 55 minutes and 55 seconds, more than a minute faster than the next best time. This spectacular push propelled him into first place in the yellow jersey standing with a 59-second advantage over Roglič. Pogačar’s unbelievable pace also gave him the lead in the mountain jersey.  

Riding into Paris in the last stage of the Tour, Pogačar was finally crowned champion of the 2020 Tour de France. Winning three jerseys, Pogačar became the first rider to do so since the legendary Eddy Merckx in 1969. 

Bennett outsprinted Sagan one final time in Paris and won the final stage, securing the green jersey for most overall points. 

The results of this year’s tumultuous Tour have shown that the sport of cycling has a very promising future. There is plenty of fresh, raw and young talent in this new field of cyclists. We should expect to see more excitement from this group for years to come.