UAE Team Emirates leader Tadej Pogacar had an almost unbreakable grip on a second straight Tour de France with a solid ride in Saturday’s time trial, here we look at some of the key moments along the road.
The first sign
As the Tour embarked from the Atlantic sea-port of Brest a roadside spectator waving a sign for the TV cameras brought down half the peloton in a mass domino-effect pile up, with two of Ineos’ quartet of title pretenders Tao Geoghegan Hart and Richie Porte trundling across the line with their Tour hopes in tatters.
Roglic, Thomas tumble too
The man expected to run Pogacar closest was his countryman Primoz Roglic of Jumbo but the double Vuelta champion crashed heavily on stage three, before pulling out a few days later. Earlier on stage three Ineos leader and 2018 champion Geraint Thomas also fell dislocating a shoulder in a painful incident that led to the Welshman also dropping down the standings. This left Jonas Vingegaard to lead Jumbo, and Ineos relying on Richard Carapaz. “Tadej isn’t unbeatable, but we need to stay on our bikes to beat him,” said Jumbo’s Wout van Aert.
Pogacar’s team boss Mauro Gianetti told reporters in Brest that although he believed Ineos were the team to beat he had a plan and that the time-trial was the key. Pogacar had “ridden between the raindrops” to avoid the first week falls, and on stage five, Pogacar burst down the ramp to pulverize his rivals with an overpowering victory that placed him in control of his own destiny.
After two days in the heart of the Alps, Dane Vingegaard sprung his surprise when the Tour climbed Mont Ventoux twice, with a sudden burst on the second ascent of the Giant of Provence.
“When Vingegaard dropped me, I knew I had to stay calm and set my own pace,” said Pogacar, who did just that to emerge with no time loss.
Vingegaard would later say “he won it in the rain, he was super strong on the rainy stages.”
The 2021 Tour featured four days in the Pyrenees, two of them summit finishes both of which provided sensational mano-a-mano battles between the three key contenders. Both days saw Pogacar set the pace, hold on when attacked and eventually display his venomous late kick to win the stages with the yellow on his back, winning fans for his gall and bonus seconds for the victory. He also won the Tour de France here. “I was at my peak there, I could not have gone faster there,” Pogacar said on Saturday.
The final obstacle on the way to the 2021 Tour triumph was an individual time-trial on a sizzling Saturday where Pogacar suffered but held his nerve to finish eighth on the day and maintain an overall lead of 5min 20sec ahead of the run to Paris Sunday. “I was going flat out but it was different to the first ITT,” said Pogacar. “I am super happy it is finished.”
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini