Dubai: Tour de France’s latest champion Tadej Pogacar has promised his best is yet to come for his UAE Team Emirates.
Pogacar, who turned 22 on Monday, upstaged hot favourite and fellow countryman Primoz Roglic to win his first Major and become the first-ever Slovenian to win Le Tour and the youngest winner since 1904, while also picking up the King of the Mountains and Best Young Rider jerseys.
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Going into Saturday’s penultimate stage, Roglic had nearly a minute lead over a younger rider from UAE Team Emirates. But, the 30-year-old Roglic succumbed to a meltdown as Pogacar rode his heart out to reverse the order and snatch an unbeatable 59-secs lead heading into Sunday’s largely processional final stage in the shadow of the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
“Now that I have won the Tour de France, I will surely need to find some other relevant goals. One of these is definitely going to be prepared all the time to try to defend my title next year,” Pogacar told Gulf News in a chat on Wednesday.
“Of course, there is the World Championships next week (in Como, Italy), and that’s going to my next big goal.
“And in the future, I want to be at my best and try to win the Tour again and some of the Monument races and the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta (Spain) as well.”
The finish from Pogacar brought to mind historical flashes of drama reminiscent of the 1989 Tour, when Greg LeMond unexpectedly overhauled Laurent Fignon in a final-day time trial to win by eight seconds. Richie Porte of Trek-Segafredo was also assured of a spot on the podium in Paris after nestling in third place, three minutes and 30 seconds away from the leader.
Pogacar won Stage 20, a clear 1.21 minutes ahead of Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma teammate Tom Dumoulin, while Porte climbed to third overall after finishing in third place on the stage.
Much had been expected of Roglic who had been tipped a firm favourite alongside defending champion Egan Bernal of Ineos Grenadiers. But Bernal abandoned the race before Stage 17 following a disastrous climb up the Grand Colombier on Stage 15 after losing more than seven minutes to Roglic.
“For sure, this was a race that decided the old generation from the new,” Pogacar said. “There have been a lot of new riders coming through since the past couple of years. They are strong and they are motivated. Last season was good for young riders like me and others and this year has been amazing with this win. I reckon this tussle will continue for the next few years, maybe another ten years and then we will be back to the same situation wherein the youngsters will try and replace the older ones.”
In addition to all the records and accolades, Pogacar picked up a cheque for 500,000 euros (Dh2.175 million) for the yellow jersey, another 25,000 euros for the ‘King of the Mountains’ award, and a further 20,000 euros for being the best-placed young rider.
“Not only was it the first win for Slovenia, but it was also the second place. The whole country is like a big casino now. They are all going crazy about this. Everyone is happy and celebrating,” Pogacar said. “But for me, it is about staying safe and healthy with my girlfriend [Urska Zigart — also a cyclist] in our apartment in Monaco before heading off for the World Championships and the Belgian Classics after that.”