‘Tadej you’ve won the Tour de France.’
“I think I’m dreaming, I don’t know what to say.”
‘It’s not a dream, you’ve won it.’
Tadej Pogačar has pulled off what had been believed impossible. Not only overturning a 57-second deficit to fellow Slovenian Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), but putting 59 more seconds into his rival on the stage 20 time trial.
Just as the flash TV interview straight after this has happened, it stops. Primož Roglič walks up to his younger compatriot and hugs him. Roglič then walks away, shakes his head, before giving a thumbs up. The interview continues.
‘Tadej you’ve won the Tour de France.’
“I don’t know what to say, I don’t know when I will understand this but I’m really proud of the team, they did such a big effort and to get the jersey on the final day, it was just a dream.
“We were dreaming that from the start, we’ve achieved that…how amazing.”
Pogačar then protests that it can’t have been thanks to his team that he put in such a phenomenal individual time trial performance, but the 21-year-old holds firm.
“It was not just me, we did the recon, I knew every corner, every pothole, where to accelerate on the road, congrats to all the team, today I just pushed finally in the end and I made it.”
More incredibly, Pogačar wasn’t receiving time gaps up the final climb due to how loud the fans were.
“I was listening to my radio on the flat part, but on the climb I didn’t hear my radio because the fans were too loud. I didn’t get time gaps or anything, I just went full gas to the top.
“Roglič looked really good all Tour, I didn’t believe myself until the finish line and then just in the finish I saw that I’d won.”
Pogačar turns 22 on Monday but has already gone above and beyond what he ever could have dreamed of achieving.
“My dream was just to be on the Tour de France, now I’m here and I just won the last stage and…unbelievable.”
For most Tour de France champions it takes a while for their achievement to sink in. For Pogačar, it’s understandable it might take a little longer.
“The race really seemed finished, that we just needed to survive the time trial,” Pogačar explained. “I had a good day, he had a little worse, I don’t really know what happened, but I was already thinking about second place. After the Col de La Loze, that was the day when I was solid on second, I just wanted to secure that, today is incredible.”
With nothing left to lose, not even really thinking about how he’d already beaten Roglič in the Slovenian national time trial race earlier this year, Pogačar decided to just ride his heart out.
“I always go into time trials quite nervous because I like the time trial and it’s a good discipline, a fight with myself, but I was not really confident to take the yellow jersey, I knew Primož was super strong,” Pogačar said. “But in the end it turns out like this, I just went full gas from start to finish. I knew the course really well, where to push, where to rest. It was good for me.”
The fact that Pogačar didn’t panic after being distanced by Roglič on the Col de La Loze, riding his own pace and limiting his losses to only 15 seconds, proved crucial in the end to his victory.
“I was quite steady through the whole Tour,” Pogačar said of his legs throughout the three weeks. “On the Loze the two guys were stronger than me. I gave my maximum, it was the queen stage, it was really hard from start to finish. I struggled at the end because it was a high altitude but I kept my mind cool after that. I was still second and still knew I could get second. Now things have turned out a little different.”
Just as Roglič has been gracious in defeat, Pogačar has shown equal respect to his rival, countryman and friend.
“Roglič was the best rider of the Tour, with a really good team, they did a really fantastic job, they raced super good,” Pogačar said. “I have so much respect for him, he’s a good friend of mine. I feel his loss because he had to lose the yellow jersey on the last day, it’s really difficult. I know how he feels.
“But that’s racing, during the race we all try to win.”