IO – Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) shined in the 2020 Tour de France, Sunday 20 September. The Slovenian won the overall classification, the mountains classification, and finished as best young rider. Pogacar was exactly 22 years old on Monday 21 September. He became the first Slovenian winner of the Tour de France.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s really crazy,” Pogacar said after finishing as quoted by cyclingnews. “Even if I didn’t win – even if I came second or last, it’s nice to be here. This is the top of the top. I cannot describe this feeling with words.
“Today was very special – special moments with my teammates. Finally I had some time to talk with them on the bike, not just going full gas every day. A lot of respect for the other riders. Every single one of them congratulated me today. I am really thankful. This sport is really amazing.”
The race, which took place from August 29 to September 20 after being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, made it to Paris without any riders testing positive for the virus. Pogacar became the second-youngest winner of the 117-year-old event that this year braved, and overcame, France’s worsening coronavirus epidemic.
Pogacar is one of those athletes who, away from their sport, don’t look much like athletes at all – at least not the kind of elite competitors with the killer instinct to win the biggest contests.
“Tadej is a very simple, very honest person. He’s just a normal kid. But in a race, he’s really competitive,” Andrej Hauptman, the former rider who nurtured Pogačar and is now on the UAE Team Emirates staff, tells Cyclingnews.
“When he sees that others are in difficulty, he’s like a shark.”
Hauptman first saw Pogačar race in 2011 when he saw the latter pursuing a group of much older teenagers from 100 metres behind. Thinking that Pogačar was struggling to keep up with the older riders, he told the race organisers that they should provide some assistance to Pogačar: the organisers explained that the younger rider was in fact about to lap the group he was chasing.
Pogacar became the youngest cyclist to win a UCI World Tour race when he won the 2019 Tour of California at 20 years of age. In his debut Grand Tour, Pogačar won three stages of the 2019 Vuelta a España en route to a third place finish. He followed that up by winning three stages of the 2020 Tour de France on the way to securing the overall victory.
Before entering the 2020 Tour de France, he announced that he would go into the race with the same mindset he had going into the 2019 Vuelta. He initially expressed his support for teammate Fabio Aru, stating that, “If Aru feels really good we’ll go for the yellow jersey and I’ll support him 100%.”
However, Aru ran into trouble early in the Tour and was dropped by the GC contenders on the early mountain stages; the Italian eventually abandoned the race on stage 9. Pogačar quickly took the role as team leader upon himself. He managed to get through the first week of the Tour without being involved in any crashes, although he did lose 1:21 to the leaders on stage 7, as he was dropped in the crosswinds. (rp)