17 July 2021

Tadej Pogacar set for second successive Tour de France title

17 July 2021

Tadej Pogacar is set to take Tour de France glory for the second year in a row after Wout van Aert won the stage 20 time trial in Saint Emilion on Saturday.

Pogacar’s commanding advantage was never likely to be put in peril on the roads through Bordeaux wine country, and though Jonas Vingegaard took 25 seconds out of the Slovenian to strengthen his grip on second, Pogacar leads by five minutes and 20 seconds ahead of Sunday’s parade into Paris.

At just 22 he will now be crowned Tour champion for the second time in less than 12 months.

Last September Pogacar snatched yellow on the penultimate day but this year he has worn the jersey with authority since stage eight, underlining his dominance with back-to-back victories on summit finishes in the Pyrenees.

Pogacar had sent an early message in his title defence with victory in the stage five time trial, but there was no need to take the same risks here as he finished eighth on the day.

“I was just super happy it was finished,” Pogacar said. “Actually it went fast, there was so much support on the course and I was enjoying every kilometre even though I was suffering. It was super hot but I was so happy when I crossed the line that I cannot describe it.

France Cycling Tour de France (AP)

“I was going flat out but for sure it was totally different to stage five. There was much more adrenaline today. I did my best. I prepared pretty good but it was not in the legs. It was still a super performance and I’m super happy with the result.

“I cannot compare (the two titles). They are really totally different. Like I said before, last year was something else and this is just different.”

The stage 20 time trial would define last year’s Tour as Primoz Roglic melted away on the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles, but this time the race against the clock did not change the top 10 overall.

UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma came into the Tour expecting to squabble over yellow in a repeat of the Pog & Rog Show.

France Cycling Tour de France (AP)

Roglic’s opening-week crash put paid to that but both teams could celebrate on Saturday night as Pogacar toasted a title and Jumbo-Visma celebrated both Vingegaard’s second place and Van Aert’s second stage win.

Van Aert, also a winner over Mont Ventoux on stage 11, clocked a time of 35 minutes and 53 seconds over the 30.8 kilometres from Libourne, winning by 21 seconds from Kasper Asgreen.

“Winning a Tour de France time trial has been one of the biggest objectives of my career and I have been really focusing on this day so I’m happy I can finish it off,” Van Aert said.

“It’s been a really hard Tour de France for our team but we always fought through and in the end we’ve had three stage wins and we have Jonas in second in the general classification so it’s really an amazing result for a team with only four guys left.”

Vingegaard clocked the third fastest time of the day, his ride more about holding off third-placed Richard Carapaz than seeking to pressure Pogacar.

After the customary celebrations on the parade into Paris will come the one unresolved storyline of this Tour with Mark Cavendish getting his final chance, this year at least, to break Eddy Merckx’s record of 35 Tour stage victories.

“I’m already thinking of tomorrow,” Cavendish said after completing his time trial early in the day.

“I hope for a stage win. There are many teams who haven’t won yet so it will be a battle for victory, but normally it comes to a sprint on the Champs-Elysees. I will just try to win.”

The Manxman’s return to form, and to the Tour, has followed a Hollywood script so far, so there would be no better place for the grand ending than in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe.

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