Tadej Pogačar woke up on Monday in Paris as the winner of the Tour de France 2020 and celebrated his 22nd birthday with his girlfriend and his parents after an evening with his Emirates team from the UAE in a small pizza restaurant in Paris. In just 48 hours, Pogačar’s life has changed dramatically.
He had had one of the biggest surprises in Tour de France history, beating his Slovak compatriot Primož Roglič after the Jumbo Visma team dominated the race and believed they had secured victory. It was an incredible end to a race that many thought would never reach Paris.
French sports newspaper L’Equipe describe Pogačar as’Jeune et Insouciant̵
Pogačar is only the 12th rider to win the yellow jersey on his debut, and the youngest winner since Henri Cornet in 1904. He traveled to his home in Monaco on Monday afternoon, still in shock.
“Le Tour is a young cyclist’s dream and I won it yesterday!” He wrote in an Instagram post with a selection of photos from the last stage in Paris.
“I cannot describe how grateful I am for EVERYONE who is involved in any matter !! With a legend, Richie Porte and Primoz Roglic, who have inspired me so much in recent years and around the world to be on the top step of the podium on the Champs Élysées. Thank you all. That’s just amazing for me. “
“I still don’t know where I am. It’s crazy, ”Pogačar admitted L’Equipe published in an exclusive interview on Monday.
“Before the time trial, I thought I would finish second and was satisfied with this result and the best young driver’s jersey. The night before, in the parking lot, I had watched the mechanics prepare a special white bike for me to arrive on the Champs-Élysées. But then the time trial turned everything in my life upside down and everything in me is still upside down.
“I think the secret of my success is that I started without believing for a moment that I could win. I was free spirited, I didn’t even have a power meter. “
Pogačar was considered a talented young rider and outsider for the Tour de France, but seemed to have succumbed to the dominance of Roglič and Jumbo-Visma. His friendly manner, however, obscured his burning ambition. He has been described as the little prince. Roglič’s younger brother and his understudy. He seemed destined to win the Tour de France one day, but not in 2020.
Roglič accepted the defeat gracefully and revealed his true character in the defeat. Pogačar was also graceful and almost embarrassed when he took Roglič’s yellow jersey off in the last time trial, just 24 hours before the trip to Paris. They talked and hugged on the drive to Paris, and Roglič even went to Pogačar when they crossed the finish line on the Champs-Élysées.
“Primož was so dignified. He seemed to take the defeat well. He was the best of the tour and then just had a bad day,” said Pogačar.
“I’m sorry for him, but this is sport. We want to win, we give everything and unfortunately he lost the jersey and I’m the one who has it, even though he’s one of the greatest drivers in the last three years.
“When Primož came to Jumbo-Visma, I was seventeen and I admired him. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to train with him from time to time and then compete against him. And now I’ve beat him … I’ve beaten him in the greatest race there is, it seems so strange.
“Of course we will continue to ride together sometimes, but I can imagine that it will be very difficult for him to get over it. The Jumbo Visma team had done everything to win the tour. It will be hard for them to accept defeat, but Primož is a champion, he will stand up and face a new challenge. “
Pogačar suggested that Roglič and Jumbo-Visma may underestimate him, especially after losing 1:21 in the crosswind attacks in Phase 7 to Lavaur.
“When I lost time in the relays, the Jumbo-Visma was no longer focused on me and so I was able to attack in the Pyrenees and win back time. But absolutely everyone was convinced that 57 seconds before the time trial would be enough for Primož.” Roglič wins, “he said
Pogacar’s aggression in the Pyrenees and his refusal to accept defeat helped him overcome his time losses. He withdrew 40 seconds to Loudenvielle on the eighth stage and collected 33 bonus seconds during the important mountain stages.
He also attacked the final climb to La Planche des Belles Filles, instinctively racing for his bike change instead of reading his performance data. Pogačar always had to attack if he wanted to be bigger and better rivals.
“Until I was a junior, I was much smaller than my opponents because I developed late. The races were short and intense and to have a chance of winning I had to attack all the time. But I almost always failed! ” he explained.
“I didn’t have enough strength for the sprints. It was frustrating, but I now know that it gave me a lot of mental strength. I never think of giving up, I insist until it works. That helped me a lot and also developed my mental focus and concentration.
“I love to drive like this. For me it’s the best way to win. ”
L’Equipe introduced the group of UAE Team Emirates managers and sports director who had worked with him on the Tour de France, and recalled the doping cases at Saunier Duval, as team manager Mauro Gianetti and sports director Joxean Matxin in the team with Riccardo Ricco were involved.
Pogačar was discovered by Andrej Hauptman, who drove with Vini Caldirola, Tacconi, Lampre and Fassa Bortolo between 1999 and 2005. Today he is the Slovenian national coach and sports director for the UAE Team Emirates.
When asked about her past, Pogačar insisted that his conscience was clear.
“I’m too young to remember that time, I was ten years old in 2008, and it seems bizarre to me to talk about it because it’s against everything I believe in,” said Pogačar.
“I know doping is a health hazard for athletes. I was always aware of this. I would say we have nothing to hide and I think that despite this climate of mistrust, cycling is a sport that does a lot against doping. It makes me sad that people might doubt my performance. My only defense is to have a clear conscience. “
Many have predicted that Pogačar’s life will never be the same again, even if despite his young age he appears grounded and intelligent.
He is not expected to do another Grand Tour this season, but he will be targeting the classics in October, including the Flanders tour.
Before going to Belgium to get a taste of Flemish racing, he will travel to Imola in Italy for the World Championship this week and drive the road race on Sunday.
A week of celebration can affect its form, but just like the Tour de France, it shouldn’t be ignored.
“I don’t know the courses yet, but they say it will be very difficult and I like this type of course. It’s going to be a long time too, so it’s going to be a very tough race for sure. I hope for the best, ”he said, confirming his presence in Imola.
“We have a really strong team with Slovenians so we’ll see how our chances stand in this tough race.”