Anthony Tan: Tadej Pogacar, Richie Porte & The 2020 Tour de France


“I could see Pogacar coming a mile away and I said the only solution he had was to wait for the TT because time was on his hands,” the five-time Tour de France winner told the French newspaper L’Equipe the next day. Tadej with the baby face made the impossible, possible.Primoz Roglic took the lead in the ninth stage won by Pogacar, although the latter did not come second overall until the summit of Puy Mary, five days later. If Pogacar was the best climber, having also triumphed on the Grand Colombier – the finish of stage 15 – last week, neither Roglic nor Jumbo-Visma, the yellow jersey team, seemed disturbed by his presence.

He is only 21 years old. Its UAE Team Emirates coterie is reduced to six men. It is light weight. We are heavyweights.

“He was much cooler than Roglic. We have seen it in the last few days. He knew he didn’t need to attack because Jumbo was stronger, ”reasoned Merckx. “He just had to fly under the radar a little before the time trial. ”

When you’re second on GC in the world’s biggest bike race, it’s nearly impossible to ‘fly under the radar’, but that’s what Pogacar has managed to do – helped by a team that Merckx says, ” ran stupidly ”.

“They were hoisted by their own firecracker, they went to seek this defeat. It was clear that Pogacar was not going to attack them; he couldn’t let them fall in the mountains. But they should have tried to drop him much sooner to have enough leeway on him. It’s a good lesson in cycling. “

“It was a great day, and now I am back in the white jersey,” said Tadej Pogačar after the 13th TDF stage. He ultimately won the race, becoming the youngest Tour de France winner in 100 years.

A good lesson indeed. The hindsight is a wonderful thing, although if we look back at the results, the only time Pogacar allowed Roglic a significant time was in the windswept seventh stage, where he lost 1’22 ″. Jumbo-Visma had an outfit that with Richie Porte’s Trek-Segafredo and Mikel Landa’s Movistar teams could have tried to do the same thing again, rather than going up and down in the wind at Team Sky in recent years.

The audacity of youth

Pogacar, who turned 22 the day after his status as the youngest driver to win the Tour in 116 years and second youngest in history, was also driven by the daring of youth.

“Even if I was second or last, it wouldn’t really matter; it would always be nice to be here, ”he remarked after being crowned on the avenue des Champs-Élysées. How many Tour winners would say something like that?

It is this carefree, nothing-to-lose-everything-to-gain approach that, during the penultimate stage of the time trial at La Planche des Belles Filles, saw the prodigy Tadej do without a power meter or a bike computer, and, with adrenaline rush, everyone trembles in a thriller never before seen since Greg LeMond revised Laurent Fignon on the last day of the Tour de France 1989.

His strategy? “Just full of gas from the bottom up.” Easy.

Tadej Pogacar, winner of the TDF 2020.

There is no doubt that Roglic broke mentally and physically on the six kilometer climb which averaged 8.3%.

Although not completely: if you had told him before the stage that he would finish 35 seconds with his teammate Tom Dumoulin – winner of the Giro d’Italia 2017, also TT world champion that year, and second in the 2018 Tour to Chris Froome – with a 57 second advantage in Pogacar, he probably would have taken it. In fact, Dumoulin finished second on the stage and Roglic always managed in fifth place, which underlines how remarkable Pogacar’s was, putting respectively 1’21 “and 1’56” to Dumoulin and Roglic.

Much like reigning INEOS Grenadiers champion Egan Bernal, who succumbed to injuries sustained in this year’s race, Roglic et al must return to the drawing board. Planning begins the day after the tour ends. The point is, Pogacar has shaken up what was previously considered an almost infallible racing winning model, first used by Team Sky with Bradley Wiggins in 2012, then Froome, then Bernal and finally Roglic. That was until Tadej decided to write his own ending.

While Pogacar says, “I’m not a big fan of my birthdays” and would have been content to travel to Paris for his Tour debut, he will nonetheless be keenly aware that history was created in a year. where it was unclear whether The 2020 Tour would even start, let alone end. Oscillating between 9,000 and 10,000 positive cases of COVID-19 each day, we should feel lucky to have been able to witness an entire Tour, and one that had everything a cycling enthusiast could have wished for.


It would be remiss not to praise Porte’s race, just the second Australian to step onto the Paris podium on the Tour.

Like Cadel Evans before him, his journey on the Grand Tour was a decade of roller coasters of emotions and began with a promising ride at the Giro, where, like Cadel, he enjoyed a stint in the famous maglia rosa.

Primoz Roglic, Tadej Pogacar and Richie Porte on the podium of the Tour de France 2020 in Paris.  Image: Sirotti
Primoz Roglic, Tadej Pogacar and Richie Porte on the podium of the Tour de France 2020 in Paris. Image: Sirotti

This was in 2010. He was a neo-pro of Danish company Saxo Bank, run by 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis. The team had Andy Schleck as the leader for July, so the Giro was not the top priority.

Little was expected of him, other than learning the ropes. Remember, Porte was not from a European-based Pro Continental team, but from an Australian Conti team that was sponsored by a Tasmanian takeout chain that sold hot jacket potatoes! Previously he was a full time triathlete; barely the pedigree of your typical Tour de France podium.

From the very first time trial in Amsterdam, won by Bradley Wiggins and which two years later would win the Tour, the 25-year-old from Launceston showed promise beyond his limited experience. Evans, one of the three pre-race favorites with Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre, would finish third in the stage, Porte seventh.

For the next two days, on the wind-beat specials in Utrecht and Middelberg, he would make, thanks to clever driving and solid legs, key gaps that lifted him to second place in the classifica generale. Then, on the eleventh stage (note: Porte had not run more than nine days before this Giro), he made a key separation that upset the status quo of the race – on
a day of 262 km no less – and became the leader of the race in his first Grand Tour.

Richie enjoyed a three-day stint in pink before relinquishing the lead at the end of week two. Still, he kept his head tight and, at the end of the race in Verona, would finish a very honorable seventh in the GC, just two places behind Evans, on his 11th Grand Tour and, as we all know, would triumph. at La Grande Boucle the following year. .

Every second counted as Richie Porte traveled to Paris for his best Tour de France spot to date.

Sliding doors

Unlike Cadel, who would take on a TdF leadership role in his fourth Grand Tour, where he finished eighth, Porte chose a different path: that of a well-paid mountain servant at Sky Procycling. It would ride for Wiggins (2012) and Froome (2013-2015) in July, which was the one race that really mattered to Team Sky – and still is. He had half a chance in 2014 when Froome crashed, and at the 2015 Giro, but at that point he knew that if he wanted to give the Tour a boost, he would have to do it elsewhere.

Along with his compatriot, it was here that Evans found a fully supported environment six years earlier: the BMC Racing Team.

The 31-year-old Porte finished fifth on his first attempt as an absolute leader, 5’17 “behind from Froome and surely a harbinger of better things to come was the widely held belief. In 2017 and 2018 he arrived at the Grand Départ with his best career form – possibly a Tour-winning form – but Lady Luck was on vacation in the Maldives: both times he crashed nine stages.
That would have been enough to break 99% of people, but Richie is in the rarefied 1%; he still had unfinished business.

In 2019, now with Trek-Segafredo, the pugnacious devil Tassie that is Porte ran eleventh. 12’42 “behind a 22-year-old Egan Bernal. In Paris, he looked defeated and unhappy. Time was no longer his friend. At 34, Evans was the oldest postwar winner; he was already there and had a year left on his contract.

Last roll of the dice

Faced with the power of The Pog and The Rog, entering the final week of the 2020 Tour, the podium was the best he could have hoped for.

“Probably the stage where I really started to believe was the [15th stage to] Grand Colombier. Obviously, the Slovenes were the strongest but I was third. The time trial was one of the best I’ve done in my career. It’s been such a trip and I’m so happy to finally be on the podium of a Grand Tour, ”he declared in Paris, his smiley face unrecognizable from yesteryear.

It took Evans nine years and 13 Grand Tours to get where he wanted; for Porte, it was one season and two more Grand Tours. “Third place is just a reward for a long career, which has been very successful and normally in the service of others,” said Wiggins.

Throughout the Tour, he said he was more relaxed than in previous years.

A consequence, perhaps, of being a father – he now has two, Luca and Eloise, the latter born during this year’s race.
– and that 2020 would be the last as a leader in July; something he never seemed entirely comfortable with. But now that he’s got the monkey on his back, should he really give it up to join INEOS Grenadiers as a super-domestic?

The career of a professional cyclist is not long. 2021 will mark a dozen seasons at this level, and Porte will be 36 on January 30. He has a family to support, and as he says of Pogacar, 13 years his junior and who beat him by 3’30 “:” He is just such
huge talent and he’s so raw. He’s so good. We will see a lot more of it in the years to come.

As for the Australian riders, with a record-breaking stage race only second behind Cadel, the next rewards for Richie should be seen as a bonus.


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