Of course, anything can happen. At a time when these lines are completed this Sunday, July 18, Tadej Pogacar has not yet crossed the finish line on the Champs-Élysées, thus consecrating his second consecutive victory in the Tour de France. But anyway, the story is well and truly written, and for some time now.
→ ANALYSIS. Tour de France 2021: at the end of a particularly grueling Grande Boucle …
Since June 30 to be precise, the fifth stage of the Grande Boucle, this time trial has been flown over at high speed near Laval. The Slovenian had stunned the competition, stunned the experts, impressed the commentators. All his rivals were already showing an outlay of more than a minute and a half. Tadej Pogacar ingenuously blurted out: “I’m quite curious to see how the race will turn out”.
The image of an ingenuous champion
In his favor, and inevitably. Because in addition to this hammer blow, the Slovenian could count on the bad luck slipped under the wheels of his fiercest opponents. Decreased by repeated falls, the Welshman Geraint Thomas was going to be no more than the shadow of the winner of 2018, and Primoz Roglic, also thrown off from the third stage, abandoned the favorite costume by the roadside from the 4 July.
The ground thus left free, Tadej Pogacar hastened to occupy it, and in great widths. A stroke of brilliance in the first stage of the Alps to put on the yellow jersey and push back the other contenders even more, a double focus in the Pyrenees to confirm who is the boss, do not throw any more. No wearer of the sunny tunic had allowed himself such a double since Bernard Hinault on the 1979 Tour.
In 2020, the Slovenian had tumbled in the last time trial the day before the arrival in Paris. This time his reign was announced, to say the least. “They said I won last year because I was in hiding, in ambush. So me, I want to show that it was not a single blow ”, told the champion after his festival on the Pyrenean peaks. A little too good to be true?
Over the past fortnight, the Slovenian has applied himself to answering all questions about the suspicion of doping imposed by his overwhelming domination. By highlighting its negative controls, up to “Three checks in one day”. By brushing aside allusions to the boss of his team, the Swiss Mauro Gianetti, who in 2008 led the Saunier-Duval team excluded from the Tour because of the EPO doping of three of his riders: “I think what happened is a thing of the past. “ By proposing above all the image of a champion who lives his passion with the preserved innocence of the kid nicknamed the “Pogi elf” that he was in Slovenia, in the saddle from the age of 9, a well-determined ball of energy. to compensate for its small size: “I run like a kid who enjoys running. For me, cycling is a game ”, he smiles.
A progression confirmed by a good year
“Me, I want to believe in this kid, comments Vincent Lavenu, manager of the AG2R-Citroën team. He’s really good, has incredible recovery capacity, and he doesn’t come out of nowhere. You can’t always go over the same questions every time a guy dominates. “
The boss of the Cofidis team, Cédric Vasseur, also retains the progress of Tadej Pogacar, highlighted in 2018, the youngest rider to win the Tour de l’Avenir (at 19), and who has since confirmed, with a spectacular record this year before the Tour de France – four stage races run, three successes (Tour of the United Arab Emirates, Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour of Slovenia) and a podium (third in the Tour of the Basque Country): “Pogacar is not a rookie, he is a very talented rider and on a cloud this year where he wins everything. But we must admit that adversity was not quite there either. “
→ THE ROUTE. Find the map of the 2021 Tour de France stages
Tadej Pogacar has in fact hardly trembled on this Grande Boucle, barely jostled on the Ventoux by the Danish revelation Jonas Vingegaard, probable runner-up to Pogacar. His rivals hardly tried to destabilize him. “He is really above the rest, with a huge margin of safety on this Tour, and can become the champion of the decade., judge Jean-René Bernaudeau. I want to applaud, but I remain very careful. “ A caution demanded by the cycling past, forever encumbered with a specter that never ceases to chuckle. It is undoubtedly a pity. But it is so.
Not one jersey but three
The best climber’s polka-dot jersey and the best youngster’s white jersey? No need to look for them in the peloton, they are hidden: under the yellow jersey of Tadej Pogacar. The Slovenian on this edition cumulates. For the best youngster, he is ahead of the Danish Jonas Vingegaard and the French David Gaudu in the standings. For the mountain grand prix, he is well ahead of the Dutchman Wout Poels and the inevitable Jonas Vingegaard, who can have serious claims: Tadej Pogacar’s best rival in the coming years?