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A Tour de France held in September during a pandemic is one reason why we will remember the 107th Tour de France for years to come. It has been three weeks of suffering for the sprinters to get over mountains, three weeks of incredible stories and it all came down to a final time trial up La Planche des Belles Filles still with the ceremonial procession in Paris to come.
Saturday 19th September will go down as the most dramatic day of bike racing cycling has even seen, the day a young 21-year-old kid from Slovenia overturned a 57 second deficit to win the Tour by a margin of 59 seconds over a fellow countryman. Tadej Pogačar becomes the youngest post-war rider to win the yellow jersey and he did it in style with an extraordinary comeback that has shocked the world of cycling.
Pogačar was the fastest at every time split, took a bike change with good effect up the climb and beat Tom Dumoulin by a margin of 1 minute 21 seconds to win his third stage at this year’s race. Before the stage began there, was always a chance, confirmed in our minds that either Tadej Pogačar or Primož Roglič would make history to become the first Slovenian to win the Tour, but did we ever believe that the apprentice would overthrow the master? One of the most unexpected victories and oh so similar to 1989 when LeMond overcome Fignon by 8 seconds, the margin not as tight in 2020 but dramatic all the same!
After taking the yellow jersey on day one with Alexander Kristoff it has been a full circle for UAE-Team Emirates who now have the maillot jaune at the crucial point in the race. To make things better Tadej Pogačar takes the polka-dot jersey off Richard Carapaz and as a reminder to his GC rivals, a youngster in the white jersey – never before has a rider won three jerseys altogether. Huge celebrations in Paris tomorrow, he turns 22 on Monday and this is his Tour don’t forget!
You have to feel so much sympathy for Primož Roglič who has looked untouchable throughout the three weeks. Jumbo-Visma will finish the Tour as the strongest team, Roglič supported by superb domestiques, a stage wins at Orcières-Merlette, two for Wout Van Aert but overall, the prize they were after just slipped through the fingers. Roglič simply did not have the legs and it will beggar belief that he lost the Tour de France after a 36.2 km time trial atop La Planche des Belles Filles.
This isn’t the first time a key time trial at the Tour has gone wrong for Primož Roglič – Stage 20 in 2018 when lost time to Chris Froome and didn’t make the podium. Last year’s Giro was a brilliant showing from him until he faded in week three – Roglič is a fantastic rider but on evidence he trails off at the pivotal moments. So much sympathy for him though, a man who may not have a lot to say when asked questions but on the bike is one of the best.
What will be hard to stomach for Jumbo-Visma is all the hard work that will feel like a total waste. It is extraordinary that three of their best time trialists were beaten by such an enormous margin. Tom Dumoulin 1 minute 21 seconds down, Wout Van Aert 1 minute 31 seconds and Roglič at 1 minute 56 seconds behind. It was never a course for the pure time trialist but the calibre of names Pogačar beat deserves praise.
Another man who deserved huge congratulations is Richie Porte. So many years of sacrificing himself for Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome when at Team Sky, so many unlucky moments at BMC and now for Trek-Segafredo he will finally be on the podium at a Grand Tour. It is no secret that crashing on the Mont du Chat descent and breaking his collarbone before making the Roubaix cobbles in 2018, we’ve shed a tear for Richie Porte. Now pure happiness for Australian who thoroughly deserved third place overall. It just wasn’t to be for Miguel Ángel López who was simply up against the better time trialist.
It will be a special day for Ireland tomorrow! Sam Bennett will win the green jersey on the Champs-Élysées and could even win the stage to cap off a great Tour. All the main players for the final sprint in Paris have made to Stage 21 to fight it out for the Holy Grail of all victories for a sprinter.
The most extraordinary Tour de France draws to a close tomorrow in Paris. Every stage covered for The Chain Gang – one more finale to come!