Slovenia’s rider Tadej Pogačar has crossed the finish line of the Tour de France in Paris to round up his superb performance at the world’s most prestigious race, a historic feat for Slovenian sport. Coming in second was his older compatriot Primož Roglič, throughout the race an undisputed favourite, who lost to Pogačar at the eleventh hour.
21-year-old Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) was formally crowned the Tour de France winner on Sunday after putting on a dramatic turnaround in Saturday’s penultimate stage, breaking several records.
He is the first 21-year-old to win the greatest of all three-week races as a Tour newcomer after France’s Laurent Fignon in 1983. He is also the first to wear the yellow jersey (general classification leader), the polka dot one (best in the mountainous classification) and the white one as the best young rider.
“This is incredible, standing here in Paris on the top step of the podium,” said Pogačar, draped in the Slovenian flag as his parents watched on.
“I never thought I would be here. It’s been an amazing three-week adventure. I have to thank everyone who’s been involved in the preparation for the race, everyone in my team and my family.”
Despite his talent, Pogačar’s victory is in a way a surprise given that his first three-week race was only last year’s Vuelta, where he placed third.
Pogačar joined his first and only club before becoming a professional athlete – KD Rog Ljubljana when he was nine.
He first came to the attention of the Slovenian public at the Tour of Slovenia in 2017, which he finished fifth and got the white jersey as the best young rider.
In 2018, he won Tour de l’ Avenir in what was a great success.
It was his outstanding results that made him soon be spotted by the UAE’s professional team and he was signed on in July 2018, fully joining it on 1 January 2019.
The Tour de France victory will bring him and his team more than EUR 600,000.
Many Slovenian fans came to Paris to cheer their winning champions, while locals in Pogačar and Roglič’s home towns are celebrating with open-air parties.
Congratulations for both are pouring in, although Roglič’s fans in the town of Kisovec are slightly disappointed, yet they still consider him a winner.
Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) held the Tour’s yellow jersey since the end of stage nine in Laruns, and had an around one-minute lead on Pogačar before yesterday’s stage, but had to take it off for the Paris grand finale as Pogačar did 59 second better in Saturday’s time trial.
However the failure to win the Tour – his ultimate goal that seemed so close – could prove motivation for future. After all, the ski jumper-cum-rider won Spain’s Vuelta and placed third at Giro d’Italia last year.
“I super proud. I proud of what I managed to do and us as a team which really put on super shows throughout the three weeks,” Roglič, who came to the podium with his son Lev, said.
“I wouldn’t change a single thing, there are no regrets, the best one has won, so sincere congratulations to Tadej. And we go on,” he told public broadcaster RTV Slovenija.