Team UAE Emirates rider Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey (centre), celebrates on the podium after winning the 107th edition of the Tour de France race on Sunday. Agence France-Presse
Paris: Tadej Pogacar became the first Slovenian to win the Tour de France after he retained the yellow jersey in the 21st stage on Sunday, a day after he pulled off a major coup to take the overall lead.
While Sam Bennett won the final stage, the day belonged to Team UAE Emirates rider Pogacar, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Monday and is the youngest man to win the race since Henri Cornet in 1904.
Pogacar, who claimed the yellow jersey from a stunned Primoz Roglic with a monumental performance in Saturday’s time trial, also won the white jersey for the best Under-25 rider and the polka dot jersey for the mountains classification.
Roglic ended up second, 59 seconds behind, with Australian Richie Porte taking third place, 3:30 off the pace.
Pogacar also won three stages in one of the most brilliant individual performances in recent Tour history, leaving Roglic’s dominant Jumbo-Visma team wondering what went wrong.
“We didn’t see it coming,” said Roglic’s team mate and former Tour runner-up Tom Dumoulin.
Bennett became the first Irishman since Sean Kelly in 1989 to win the green jersey for the points classification, ahead of Peter Sagan who was looking to claim it for a record-extending eighth time.
Bennett was the strongest at the end of the 122-km ride from Mantes-la Jolie on Sunday, beating world champion Mads Pedersen, with Sagan coming home third.
Ineos-Grenadiers had a Tour to forget as defending champion Egan Bernal dropped out of contention in the Jura stage to the Grand Colombier, pulling out a few days later with back pains.
They recovered some pride later on, however, as Michal Kwiatkowski, their unsung hero for five years, claimed an emotional stage win -- although that was certainly not enough for a team who had won seven of the previous eight editions.
It was an anti-climatic finale on the Champs-Elysees as only 5,000 fans were allowed on the famous avenue as a precaution against the coronavirus.
The race was a triumph of organisation after the French president gave them the green light to belatedly stage the event.
Meanwhile, neighbours and cycling fans gathered on Sunday in the tiny Slovenian town of Komenda, north of capital Ljubljana, to celebrate the surprise victory of compatriot Pogacar on the Tour de France.
A crowd of several hundreds gathered at Komenda’s local sports hall, many of them on their bikes and wearing yellow jerseys, to watch the race on a television placed in a car park while a local brass band played from time to time.
The gathering had been organised overnight since most inhabitants, including mayor Stanislav Poglajen, had expected the victory would go to Roglic with their local hero in second.
Poglajen, proudly wearing a yellow t-shirt, said the municipality had painted the main roundabout in yellow, white and white with polka dots overnight to honour the three jerseys Pogacar wore during the 21-stage race.
With some discomfort he admitted he and most of the community had been expecting Roglic to be the ultimate winner.
“From my heart, I must say I would be very happy for Roglic if he had won and Tadej ended second, but Pogacar surprised us, he surprised us pleasantly,” Poglajen said.
Within the crowd there were also bitter smiles of Roglic’s supporters, who cancelled the party they had planned and came to Komenda after their idol and main favourite at the Tour lost 57 seconds on the penultimate stage.
“We would have preferred if Primoz had won, but the stronger win. We came to greet Pogacar’s fans here,” Jure, a man in his early 20s, said adding Roglic was under much bigger pressure than his younger rival.