Featured image courtesy of Kenzo Tribouillard/Getty Images
In what proved to be one of the most dramatic ends to a Grand Tour in recent history, Slovenian youngster Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team-Emirates) took a shock victory in his debut Tour de France. Here’s a breakdown of the key events that defined the third and final week of La Grande Boucle.
Pogacar Demolishes Time Trial to Overhaul Roglič
Pogacar came into his debut Tour for ‘experience’ as opposed to being a genuine General Classification (GC) contender. Few expected Pogacar to make the top five, even fewer the podium.Embed from Getty Images
Practically no-one predicted that the Slovenian would be on the top step of the podium after stage 20’s time trial. The 21-year old produced what will go down as one of the most memorable performances in Tour history, overcoming several noted time-triallists on a flat course with a hilltop finish to La Planche des Belles Filles.
Pogacar took a whopping 1:21 out of second-placed Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), and nearly two minutes out of yellow jersey holder Primoz Roglič. Just 9 riders finished within three minutes of his time.
At the first intermediate time check, Pogacar was thirteen seconds up on compatriot Roglič. This became 36 seconds at the second check before the climb.
Many expected that Pogacar had gone out too hard, and that Roglič had measured his effort perfectly in view of the tough 5.9km climb to come.
The opposite was true however, and Pogacar continued to stretch out his advantage all the way to the finish line, in what many will argue was the most thrilling end to a Tour for years.
Incredibly, this was just Pogacar’s third TT victory, and the first besides the Slovenian national championships.
Pogacar becomes the youngest winner of the Tour since 1904, and joins a select group of riders to have won it on their debut, including Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, and Bernard Hinault.
Roglič Falls at the Last Hurdle
When the 2019 Vuelta a Espana winner won stage four to Orcières-Merlette, many assumed that that would set the tone for the rest of the race, with Roglič cruising to victory thanks to a menacingly-strong Jumbo-Visma team, as well as his noted TT skills.
Roglič never put a foot wrong, and when he extended his lead on the ferociously difficult Col de La Loze on stage 17, the race seemed like a done deal.
The TT was expected to be a formality, with Roglič’s noted ability against the clock that saw him win two time trial stages at last year’s Giro, and one at the Vuelta, hold firm against Pogacar.
That was until Roglič began the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles. His usual silk-smooth cadence and fluid position on the bike was replaced by ugly, erratic efforts in and out of the saddle, as he struggled to find his rhythm.Embed from Getty Images
Even his helmet was not fitted correctly, and a ragged bike change at the foot of the climb cost him even more seconds. That incident counted for little however; Roglič was roundly beaten, crossing the line dejectedly in fifth place.
Roglič will be looking back and wondering whether he could have put more time into Pogacar in the mountains, although such was his collapse on stage 20, as well as Pogacar’s two stage wins, he can’t protest that he was simply beaten by a stronger rider.
Porte Secures Career-Best Grand Tour Finish
Finally, after years of working as a domestique at Team Sky and a string of failed Grand Tour leadership attempts, Australian Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) secured his place on the podium in his best-ever result in a Grand Tour.
Despite lying in sixth after stage 15, Porte was able to move up to fourth on stage 17, outclimbing all except Roglič, Pogacar, and stage winner Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team), who was almost two minutes ahead in third.Embed from Getty Images
Rolling back the years, Porte put in a mesmerising ride on stage 20 to finish third, level with Dumoulin, whose ride was enough to secure seventh overall.
Meanwhile, Lopez had a day to forget, finishing in 45th and over six minutes down on the winner, helping catapult Porte into third place on GC. The Columbian will need to make serious improvements to his TT ability if he is to challenge for a GT win.
For Porte, his podium finish will be an emotional result in the twilight of his career, at his final Tour in a leadership role (assuming the rumours he has signed to Ineos Grenadiers prove to be true).
Away from the podium, Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren) and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-First) also fell foul of a poor TT, leaving them minutes off of third place. Landa records another fourth place, his joint-best position at the Tour alongside the 2017 edition. Uran could only manage eighth overall, having been in third after stage 15.
Spaniard Enric Mas gave Movistar something to cheer about for once; a surprisingly-good TT and a strong third week took him to fifth place. They once again take home the Team Classification prize, as they did in four of the previous five editions.
Bernal Abandons as Ineos Grenadiers Refocus.
Defending champion Egan Bernal did not start on stage 17, after the Columbian’s collapse on stage 15 and continuing problems with knee and back pain.
For the first time since 2014, the Ineos Grenadiers (formerly Team Sky) rolled onto the Champs Elysees on the final stage without the Tour winner in their squad.
Whilst the team’s staff scratch their heads and refocus on next year’s race, the remainder of the team’s riders sought to salvage their race and look for stage wins.
2019 Giro winner Richard Carapaz came close on stages 16 and 17; finishing second on the former and being the last man standing from the breakaway until the final kilometres of the latter.
Stage 18 finally gave the British squad the victory they were after, with the duo of Carapaz and the ever-reliable Michal Kwiatkowski riding away from the large breakaway group, leaving them alone from the Hors Categorie Plateau des Glières.Embed from Getty Images
The pair rode together arm-in-arm across the line, with Kwiatkowski taking (surprisingly) his first GT stage win as a reward for his domestique duties since helping Froome win his fourth Tour title in 2017.
Carapaz took the King of the Mountains jersey as well, but was unable to prevent Pogacar from taking it back on stage 20. He finished second in that competition.
Bennett Secures Green with Emphatic Champs-Élysées victory
2020 proved to be the first edition of the Tour de France that Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) has finished and not won the Points Classification. The Slovakian also failed to win a stage for the first time since 2015.
This left Irishman Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) to take his first green jersey, becoming the second Irish national to do so after Sean Kelley took his fourth and final maillot vert in 1989.Embed from Getty Images
Coming into the third week with a 45-point lead over Sagan, Bennett was able to survive the mountain stages and compete for the remaining intermediate sprint points, where he was able to overcome Sagan each time.
By the start of the final stage, Bennett had all but secured the jersey, and a dream Tour culminated with an emphatic victory on the Champs-Élysées to add to his stage win on stage 10 to Île de Ré, beating World Champion Mads Pedersen (Trek) and Sagan himself.
For Sagan, he is still without a win since the 2019 Tour, and will be wanting to forget this edition as soon as possible.