Tadej Pogacar pulled off an extraordinary coup in the penultimate time trial stage of the Tour de France, in effect clinching this year’s race in a shock defeat of the long-time race leader Primoz Roglic at La Planche des Belles Filles mountain top in the Vosges. In a remarkable climax to the three weeks of racing, Pogacar overturned his 57sec deficit to his fellow Slovenian to storm into the yellow jersey and a now inevitable victory in Paris on Sunday.
Moments after being hugged by the defeated Roglic, Pogacar, who will be crowned the youngest postwar winner of the Tour, looked as shell-shocked as the erstwhile race leader. “I don’t know what to say,” the UAE Team Emirates rider said. “I think I’m dreaming.
“I’m really proud of the team. They did such a big effort on the way to get the yellow jersey on the final day. We were dreaming that from the start, and we achieved it. It’s just amazing.
“We did a recon, I knew every corner, I knew every pothole on the road. I knew where to accelerate, because it was a road that you needed to know, so congratulations to all my team.”
Pogacar, the fastest at every split time, won the stage but said that after starting the Tour’s final ascent, he wasn’t aware of the time gaps. “I was listening to my radio in the first part but then on the climb I didn’t hear anything because the fans were too loud. I didn’t get any time gaps. I just went deep because I know the climb very well, so I just went full gas from the bottom to the top.”
Roglic, of Jumbo-Visma, appeared out of sorts throughout the stage and struggled to find the fluidity that has characterised his climbing so far. A misfiring bike change from time-trial bike to climbing bike at the foot of the final climb only seemed to slow his momentum further.
It was the most remarkable turnaround at the climax of the Tour since Greg Lemond usurped Laurent Fignon to claim overall victory in the 1989 Tour by just eight seconds.