While Tadej Pogacar enjoyed the processional element of the Tour de France’s conclusion in the yellow jersey, Sam Bennett, of the Deceuninck – Quick-Step team, won the final stage in Paris, outsprinting the world road race champion, Mads Pedersen, of Trek Segafredo, on the cobbles of the Champs Élysées.
The Irishman’s stage win, his second in the 2020 Tour, confirmed his victory in the points classification. “I can’t tell you how excited I am – the green jersey, on the Champs Élysées,” he said. “I never thought I’d ever be able to win this stage, the sprinters’ world championships and to do it in green, it’s just so amazing.”
He said of the sprint: “We waited, and then in the last corner, I let the others go first because there was a bit of a headwind. I opened up and thought maybe somebody would come past me, so I can’t believe I got it.”
Bennett’s success has been hard fought for after the Irishman scrapped his way through the climbs of the Pyrenees, Massif Central and Jura and, in the final week, the Alps, clinging on to the green jersey until mercifully Peter Sagan, seven time the points winner, finally accepted second place.
“All the suffering in the mountains is so rewarded now,” Bennett said. “It took me so long to get here, I’m just going to enjoy every moment of it. I was feeling the legs a bit and I was a little bit nervous about riding in the front because it’s so fast downhill and somebody crashed last time I was here.”
Meanwhile, Mauro Gianetti, the general manager of Pogacar’s UAE Emirates team, claimed he had always believed his 21-year-old rider could win the yellow jersey. “We believed it was possible from the first stage, but then we lost 1:20 mins one day. Tadej was the calmest of the team – he said: ‘No, don’t worry, I will attack. The Tour’s long and we will gain the time back.’”
Gianetti added: “Even yesterday before the time trial, he was very concentrated, and he had a vision it was possible. He gave so much of himself, it was fantastic.
“Our goal before the Tour was a stage win and Tadej to be in the top five. We won the first stage, which made us more relaxed, and day by day, we understood that Tadej was at the level to be on the podium. Then, Saturday, he had an incredibly good day, and Roglic had a not so good day.”
For the hosts, a Tour that started off brimming with promise, with Thibaut Pinot expected to challenge and Julian Alaphilippe claiming the yellow jersey, gradually dissolved into disappointment. Pinot, the Groupama FDJ leader, who crashed on day one in Nice, was hampered by a back injury, while Alaphilippe’s explosiveness, so apparent on his stage-two victory, evaporated as the race wore on.
Pinot can take heart from the example of the long-suffering Richie Porte of Trek Segafredo, who in the autumn of a chequered career has achieved his best-ever result. Success in the Tour – unless you are Pogacar – is often a marathon, not a sprint, as evidenced by the Australian’s third-place finish overall.
“It’s been a funny old race for me through the years, with so many disasters,” said Porte, now 35 and rejoining Dave Brailsford’s Inoes Grenadiers next year. “I almost had a couple here, but the team’s been incredible. I came here with my wife’s blessing and missed the birth of my second child but to come away with a podium finish.”
Porte said of his third place: “I’ll have the photo on the wall when I retire so I’m absolutely humbled. There have been so many years of hard toil but I’m just so happy. It’s probably the last Tour I do as a general classification rider, so to be third feels like a win.”