one man, who did weeks before.
Tadej Pogačar turning a 57 second deficit to his fellow Slovenian, Primož Roglič, into a 59 second lead in the Stage 20 time trial, topped a great Tour de France.
Nobody say that coming from the moment Pogačar couldn’t pick up any more time on the road before the TT. Except one voice, which was heard in the first week of the race, in the first week of September.
September. A TdF starting in August and ending in September. If it was gonna get through three weeks and 21 stages it could only end like this.
A Tour that felt like a removal of the old guard, with new faces, younger faces. With Pogačar the youngest winner, at 21, since the second edition of the race. Joined by stage winners like Marc Hirschi, who turned 22 during the race, Daniel Martínez (24), Lennard Kämna who had just turned 24 before his victory.
It did of course start with an old guy getting on top of the podium, with 33rd year old Kristoff winning the first stage, taking the Yellow Jersey obviously. That was followed up with an emotional win for Julian Alaphilippe, taking yellow just a little earlier than last year and it looked like it maybe in a different month but it was gonna be a similar Tour.
Just that Jumbo Visma were doing the Sky/Ineos role.
The most powerful team, they were the ones that were on the front acting like the boss, in the manner the British team usual attacked the race. The thing is when they did it they tended to end up with yellow in Paris.
To show that it really was 2020 after all, Alaphilippe lost yellow on stage 5 after taking a bottle from the side of the road, inside the final 20km. Handing the race leadership to Adam Yates, who had finished third behind the Frenchman and Hirschi on stage 2.
If it felt Yates hadn’t won the yellow, he defended his lead when Alaphilippe fell off so would have picked it up. Loulou wasn’t the 2019 Loulou. He said he wasn’t and even though he attacked it often ended in him blowing up and falling well behind. Unlike last year when he lit it up and finished it off in such great style.
The only problem for Yates was here for stage wins not the GC but when you’ve the yellow jersey on your back that all changes. everyone expected him to lose it to Roglič, who coming into the race, unlike Yates, had looked like the form rider, even with his withdrawal from the Dauphine. But when even when Yates lost it he hadn’t lost enough time to be allowed to go off and try and get that stage victory and when he did he didn’t look like he really had it in him.
As with so many, Yates and Alaphilippe weren’t in their best shape for a race that should have started so many weeks before.
One that looked off the pace was seven times green jersey winner, Peter Sagan. He was constantly pipped for points by not only those he was competing against but those guys lead out men in the case of Sam Bennett, the eventual points winner. Sagan certainly didn’t help himself by using his head against Wout van Aert to lose a bunch of points on stage 11.
But with Sagan having to fight for every point, at every opportunity, it meant his team were powering on the peloton on those days the GC contenders probably thought they could be in for a relaxing day. It helped make and shape the overall GC competition.
And it was all done without Ineos… Sky of old… Egan Bernal, the reigning champion was top 10 after stage two and up to second after stage 9. But the team as a whole was not the Sky/Ineos of yore. Riders dropping off early, far too early you felt in most cases. What would Bernal have in reserve once it really kicked off. But could they have just been lying doggo, keeping under the radar and letting Jumbo Visma do all of the work? Well they did have yellow, so it was their duty. The one time you saw Ineos powering at the front, was stage 13 the only problem it ended with their rider dropping off and losing time, dropping to third behind Roglič and Pogačar.
The younger Slovenian having moved right up after losing a minute and 21 seconds on stage 7 in the crosswinds and the breakup of the peloton driven by Peter Sagan’s team.
Two stages later and Bernal’s defence of his title was gone as he finished seven minutes down on stage winner Pogačar, who pipped his countryman. And now at the second rest day the top two looked set. The pair of Slovenians looked by far the strongest riders on the race, certainly the strongest climbers. With the younger of the two the strongest of the pair.
Stage 17 and Bernal had pulled out, as he had done at the Dauphine never before had we seen their leader at the back of the peloton, with his domestiques not surrounding him. The end of the Sky/Ineos run of overall Tour victories. Three from Chris Froome, one each from Geraint Thomas and Bernal. Many questions asked about the team after this “collapse”. But would it have made any difference who they took to the tour. Support riders like Froome and G wouldn’t have made Bernal’s back better. And the pair’s form in the Dauphine didn’t scream pick me. Even if G did finish second in Tirreno–Adriatico during the Tour.
Reigning Giro holder Carapaz was brought in from Giro preparation so wasn’t really ready but helped provide the one, or two, bright spots for the British team. The day after Bernal’s withdrawal they of course had free rein to do as they pleased, Carapaz and Kwiatkowski got into the breakaway. Kwiatkowski kept fighting and driving, Getting Carapaz enough points to pick up the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey, while after Hirschi had crashed the pair rolled into La Roche-sur-Foron arm in arm, Carapaz just making sure that Kwiato crossed the line first for his first individual Grand Tour victory. A well deserved victory for a man with a great palmares who has flogged his guts out for the glory of others in the Tour.
A victory dedicated to , their DS who died suddenly, aged just 40, in March. Yes Froome and G not being on form is a huge miss and the whole lockdown disruption but the loss of Portal is probably greater than all. He oversaw the last six Tour victories, along with a Giro and Vuelta.
Stage 17 also saw Pogačar lose time to Roglič for the first time when they were racing togather. The older rider’s advantage moving out from 40 seconds to 57, which it stayed at until that final actual day of GC racing.
Stage 20 a 32 minute time trial finishing up La Planche des Belles Filles. A stage that will go down in tour history. Up there with the final stage time trial from 1989. But that day Greg LeMond was 50 seconds behind Laurent Fignon before winning by 8 seconds, the smallest winning margin in Tour history.
Maybe Pogačar could get back that 57″. Hell, maybe he could even get 8″ ahead but to beat Roglič by nearly two minutes. That was something nobody saw. From the off Pogačar looked to be on it while the yellow jersey seemed to be weighing heavy on the shoulders of the previously unflappable Roglič.
The looks on Roglič’s Jumbo teammates, Tom Dumoulin and van Aert said it all as they saw the time gap tick down, it really was amazing to see. As Pogačar not only overtook Roglič but also won his third stage of the race. In doing so it meant that the green jersey was the only one he didn’t win, taking the polka dot for King of the mountains, white for the best young rider and the overall prize of yellow.
For his part Roglič took defeat with great grace, being a close friend of Pogačar will have helped maybe. And was all smiles on the final podium, which also Richie Porte finally make it there, just as he’s stopping being a team leader and rejoining Ineos as a super domestique.
But who saw it coming. Well, I’m sure I remember in an interview with ITV4 during that first week, when his rider had taken yellow, Mitchleton-Scott DS, Matt White, when asked if Yates could win it, said that Roglič drops off in TTs that take place in the third week of GTs.
As for ITV4, Ned Bolting was his usual annoying self, doing his best to spoil everything.