As Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic every took their heads of their arms, 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 very best efficiency of his younger profession, wiping out Roglic’s 57-second lead and opening a more than likely insurmountable lead of his personal getting into Sunday, the race’s remaining day. The consequence ensured that he’ll enter Paris for the historically celebratory remaining stage sporting 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 develop into the primary rider from Slovenia to win the race.
Roglic completed fifth in Saturday’s time trial, almost two minutes behind Pogacar, who earned his third stage win of this 12 months’s Tour by delivering one of the vital memorable performances within the race’s illustrious historical past.
“Unforgettable,” Pogacar stated as his feelings overwhelmed him.
Several ft away, Roglic, his good buddy, sat on the pavement, 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 develop into 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 during which he confirmed his breadth of abilities racing on flat roads, mountain passes and, lastly, alone in opposition to the clock.
The stage on Saturday capped a formidable duel between Pogacar and Roglic, and turned the tables after Roglic had expertly held off Pogacar’s assaults for greater than per week.
Roglic, 30, had led the Tour since its ninth stage, and he by no means gave the impression to be threatened. He was backed by his teammates on the Jumbo-Visma workforce, who maintained a quick tempo whereas defending their chief on the head of the peloton, using alongside him as he stored Pogacar from breaking free day after day.
But as Roglic rode alone on Saturday, he 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 basic 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 race’s three-week, pandemic-delayed journey throughout France.
The duel between Roglic and Pogacar was joined on the hills of the Massif Central earlier this month, but it surely absolutely unfolded within the French Alps when the race entered its remaining week on Tuesday. By then, it had develop into clear that the winner of the 2020 Tour de France can be one of many two males.
Slovene flags grew to become extra current on the edges of the street on the ultimate days, as 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 distant.
Roglic was one of many race’s favorites since the start, and Pogacar was not an unknown. The winner of the 2019 edition of the Tour of California, Pogacar lit up the Tour de France this year in several mountain stages, winning two of them as he tried in vain to gain time on Roglic.
Yet whenever Pogacar tried to go, Roglic remained positioned right on his back wheel. “I’m doing Tadej no favor,” Roglic said last Sunday, after finishing a few seconds behind his countryman in the 15th stage.
The duel between the two Slovenes didn’t start on French roads, though, but at home. In June, Pogacar beat Roglic in Slovenia’s national time trial championship by just nine seconds, a week after Roglic had claimed the national road race title, 10 seconds ahead of Pogacar.
The two then took their cat-and-mouse game to France, and it came in full display in the hills on Stage 13. As Pogacar unseated last year’s winner, Egan Bernal, from the second position in the overall standings, Roglic made clear that he would not let Pogacar cut any further into his lead: He rode right behind him, and the two completed the stage together.
Pogacar said he and Roglic weren’t friends during those final miles that day, and that more rivalry would come. At the time, the two Slovenes were followed by four Colombians in the general classification, and many thought that Bernal, ranking third, could come back.
Two days later, in the 15th stage last Sunday, Pogacar won his second stage, and once again Roglic was on his wheel, not giving him a chance to close the gap in the standings. But they had used that day to drop Bernal, the defending champion who later abandoned the race, and take the reins of the event for good.
“He is unstoppable,” Pogacar had said of Roglic then.
A week later, that word applied to Pogacar.