Tadej Pogacar overtook countryman Primoz Roglic and is set to become the youngest Tour de France champion since 1904, the second-youngest in history and the first Slovenian champion.
Pogacar, who turns 22 on Monday, overcame a 57-second deficit to Roglic and won Saturday’s penultimate stage, a 22-mile time trial with a finishing four-mile climb. He is 59 seconds ahead of Roglic after three weeks and 84 hours of total racing.
“Actually, my dream was just to be [in] the Tour de France,” Pogacar said. “I cannot believe it, and if you ask me in one week, one month, I will still not believe it, probably.”
Pogacar won the stage by 81 seconds, greater than the margin separating second place from eighth place after 55 minutes on the roads. Roglic was fifth.
It’s reminiscent of American Greg LeMond surpassing Frenchman Laurent Fignon in the time trial finale of the 1989 Tour.
That final margin was the closest in Tour history — eight seconds. This one would be the 11th time in Tour history that the difference is less than a minute, according to ProCyclingStats.com.
“I struggled with everything, just not enough power,” Roglic said. “I was just more and more without the power that I obviously needed. I was just really giving everything till the end.”
Australian Richie Porte will join Pogacar and Roglic on the podium after moving up from fourth place going into the time trial. Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez, who came into the day in third, dropped to sixth.
It’s the first time since 2007 that everybody on the final Tour de France podium will be there for the first time.
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Sunday’s finale is the traditional ceremonial ride into Paris where the overall leaders don’t attack each other.
Pogacar is riding his first Tour de France and in his second season as a professional cyclist with a World Tour team.
Last September, he finished third in the Vuelta a Espana, one of three Grand Tours, which Roglic won. At the time, Pogacar became the youngest Grand Tour podium finisher since 1974.
“I knew that I can be with the best, that I can follow,” after the Vuelta, Pogacar said, “but I never thought that I would win already this year, especially in this season that was really strange.”
UAE Team Emirates initially planned to use Pogacar to support Fabio Aru, but the Slovenian’s continued emergence changed the plan.
“I’m going [to the Tour] firstly to learn,” Pogacar said in May. “But if I have a chance to show what I can do, I will.”
Pogacar was Robin to Roglic’s Batman for most of this Tour.
Roglic wore the yellow jersey as race leader the last two weeks. heading the dominant Jumbo-Visma team. Pogacar donned the white jersey for the highest-placed rider 25 and under, though he was on a weaker team.
But when they went head-to-head on climbs, Pogacar usually stuck with Roglic, sometimes riding away from him.
When it came down to the final climb on Saturday, with no team support in what they call the race of truth, Pogacar showed who was the strongest Slovenian.
“[Roglic] was really superior through the whole Tour,” Pogacar said. “He must be devastated, but that’s bike racing, I guess. Today I beat him, and that was it.”
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