UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogacar claimed back-to-back Tour de France titles in fine form as he finished a safe eighth in the individual time-trial from Libourne to St-Emilion on Saturday, 57 seconds behind Jumbo-Visma's Wout Van Aert.
The Slovenian Pogacar made his breakthrough on this stage last year and has gone on to dominate this year's race and holds a massive lead of more than five minutes over Jumbo-Visma's Jonas Vingegaard going into Sunday's processional stage into Paris.
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Pogacar said: "I will celebrate when I cross the line in Paris," but everyone on the Tour now knows he is the champion as Sunday's final stage will only be a dash to the line for the sprinters.
Defending champion Pogacar’s solid ride means he need only cross the Champs-Elysees finish line with the peloton in Sunday’s 21st, and final, stage to retain the fabled yellow jersey as winner of the world’s greatest bike race.
Pogacar won three stages on his way to this dominant triumph in a manner reminiscent of former champions Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, strong in both the time-trials and the mountains.
He will also win the awards for best rider under-25 and the king of the mountains polka-dot jersey, a triple he also achieved on his debut last year.
The top three in the overall standings remained the same after the 30km run on a sizzling holiday Saturday as rowdy fans packed the roadsides all the way to the St-Emilion vineyards.
Jumbo’s Vingegaard goes into the final day run in second, while Ineos’ Richard Carapaz is in third.
A second place for the Dutch team Jumbo-Visma is a triumph of sorts after their leader Primoz Roglic fell heavily early in the race. They also won three stages even though only four of the eight-rider team made it through to the final stage.
But a third place for British outfit Ineos, with no stage wins, looks like the end of an era. The British outfit went into this race with four co-leaders hoping to win an eighth title in 10 years.
Pogacar is now the youngest double winner of the race.
“I’m so happy its coming to an end,” said Pogacar, admitting he was wiped out. “What a demanding three weeks it has been. I wasn’t so motivated last night, and had to get myself going.”
Van Aert added: “I’m very proud of our performance, these three wins and a second place in the general is great. But if we want to win the Tour de France we need to stay on our bikes and finish the Tour with a full team. Tadej deserves his win, but I don’t believe he is unbeatable.”
Following the Slovenian's stunning ride to Le Grand Bornand during Stage 8, his challengers were left racing for second place.
That day, he went solo in the Col de Romme, the penultimate climb of the day, to pull away from all his rivals in a long-range move reminiscent of racing in the 1980s to take the yellow jersey.
He then increased his advantage steadily and was in trouble only once on the slopes of a overheated Mont Ventoux when he was briefly distanced by Vingegaard.
Riding with the composure of a veteran, Pogacar lost no time that day and he beat Vingegaard and Carapaz in the two summit finishes in the Pyrenees.
Briton Mark Cavendish, who equalled Eddy Merckx's all-time record of 34 stage wins, is set to wrap up the green jersey for the points classification for the second time in his career after 2011.
Van Aert sent out a warning to Cavendish who is targeting an all time record of 35 wins on the Champs-Elysees sprint Sunday. “I’ll be challenging for sure. I won’t miss out. The Camps-Elysees sprint is a huge thing in the career of any rider,” said Van Aert.
Fellow sprint specialist Andre Greipel said before the stage that he would retire at the end if year, the German having won 11 stages on the Tour between 2011 and 2016.