As Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic every took their head of their palms seconds after finishing Saturday’s penultimate stage of the Tour de France, neither man appeared to have the ability to course of what had simply occurred.
Pogacar, 21, had simply delivered the perfect efficiency of his younger profession, wiping out Roglic’s 57-second lead in a time trial and opening a possible insurmountable lead of his personal getting into the race’s ultimate day. The end result ensured that he’ll enter Paris for Sunday’s historically celebratory ultimate stage carrying the chief’s yellow jersey, and positioned him in order that he — not Roglic, the chief of the Tour for the previous two weeks — will turn into the primary rider from Slovenia to win the race.
Roglic completed fifth in Saturday’s time trial, nearly two minutes behind Pogacar, who earned his third stage win of this yr’s Tour by delivering some of the memorable performances within the race’s illustrious historical past.
“Unforgettable,” Pogacar stated as feelings overwhelmed him.
Several toes away, Roglic, his good buddy and countryman, lay on the street, speechless and struggling to catch his breath.
“I think I’m dreaming,” Pogacar later stated. Then he interrupted himself: Roglic had come to congratulate him, and the 2 hugged. Roglic was crestfallen.
“I didn’t push enough,” he stated. “I rode without the power that I needed.”
Pogacar, of workforce UAE Emirates, is ready to turn into on Sunday the youngest winner of the Tour de France within the post-World War II period, and the second youngest champion ever. He additionally leads within the races for the competitors’s greatest climber and greatest younger rider, capping a Tour wherein he confirmed his breadth of abilities racing on flat roads, mountain passes and, lastly, when racing alone in opposition to the clock.
Saturday’s epic stage ended a formidable duel between Pogacar and Roglic, and turned the tables after Roglic had held off Pogacar’s assaults for greater than every week.
Roglic, 30, had led the Tour since its ninth stage, and had by no means gave the impression to be threatened. He was backed by his teammates of on the Jumbo-Visma workforce, who maintained a quick tempo on the head of the peloton on numerous situations, and rode alongside him as he stored Pogacar from breaking free day after day.
But as he rode alone on Saturday, Roglic crumbled as a lot as Pogacar shone, and on the finish of the stage, their positions had switched: Roglic, who was main by 57 seconds within the common classification earlier than the time trial, was left 59 seconds behind Pogacar.
“I just went full gas from bottom to the top,” Pogacar stated of the ultimate hill of the time trial, the place he cemented his victory within the stage. The remark epitomized each his efficiency on Saturday, and his racing all through the previous three weeks.
The duel between Roglic and Pogacar was joined on the hills of the Massif Central earlier this month, nevertheless it totally unfolded within the French Alps when the race entered its ultimate week on Tuesday, because it turned clear that the winner of the 2020 Tour de France could be one of many two males.
By then, as Slovene flags turned extra current on the edges of the street, Roglic and Pogacar stored stalking one another in France’s mountainous landscapes, using facet by facet or one behind one other however by no means too far-off, their battle epitomizing this yr’s version.
Roglic was one of many race’s favorites for the reason that begin, and Pogacar was not an unknown. The winner of the 2019 version of the Tour of California, he lit up the Tour de France this yr in a number of mountain phases, profitable two of them as he tried to shut the hole with Roglic.
Yet at any time when Pogacar tried to go, Roglic remained positioned proper on his wheel. “I’m doing Tadej no favor,” Roglic stated final Sunday, after ending just a few seconds behind his countryman.
The duel between the 2 Slovenes didn’t begin on French roads, however at home. In June, Pogacar beat Roglic in Slovenia’s nationwide time trial championship by simply 9 seconds, every week after Roglic had claimed the nationwide street race title, 10 seconds forward of Pogacar.
The two then took their cat-and-mouse sport to France, and it got here in full show within the hills on Stage 13. As Pogacar unseated final yr’s winner, Egan Bernal, from the second place within the general standings, Roglic made clear that he wouldn’t let Pogacar lower any additional into his lead: he rode proper behind him, and the 2 accomplished the stage collectively.
Pogacar stated he and Roglic weren’t buddies throughout these ultimate miles that day and that extra rivalry would come. At the time, the 2 Slovenians have been adopted by 4 Colombians within the common classification, and lots of thought that Bernal, rating third, may come again.
Two days later, within the 15th stage final Sunday, Pogacar received his second stage, and as soon as once more Roglic was on his wheel, not giving him an opportunity. But they’d used that day to drop Bernal, the defending champion who later deserted the race, and take the reins of the occasion for good.
“He is unstoppable,” Pogacar stated of Roglic then.
Per week later, that phrase utilized to Pogacar.