Following Egan Bernal's victory, the Colombian who at the time became the youngest winner (22) since the inception of the yellow jersey one hundred years earlier (in 1919), it's Tadej Pogacar who has set the new record after claiming the Tour de France at the age of 21, one day prior to turning 22. He's the first Slovenian to wear the yellow jersey in Paris, having surprisingly overhauled his compatriot Primoz Roglic in the conclusive time trial up to La Planche des Belles Filles. The UAE Team Emirates rider also picked up the polka dot and white jersey on the way. In doing so, he proved that the first rejuvenation of the cycling champions’ community wasn’t just a coincidence last year, as riders like Belgium’s Remco Evenepoel burst onto the scene. It seemed to be destiny, with Pogacar already having succeeded Bernal in winning the Tour de l’Avenir (2018) and the Tour of California (2019), taking his place in the record books.
Bernal and Pogacar have in common the speeding up of their career plan. The Komenda-born was on the edge of turning pro with Lampre right coming out of the junior ranks where he took the bronze medal at the European championship (behind Frenchmen Nicolas Malle and Emilien Jeannière, neither of whom are yet in the pro peloton) in Plumelec, the Breton city he names with no hesitation, being also where he got to know Roglic as a part of the Slovenian national team. When he joined UAE Team Emirates at the end of 2018, he was scheduled to ride his first Grand Tourin 2020, either the Giro or La Vuelta, before making his debut on the Tour de France in 2021 as a part of his pro education, with the aim of returning with ambitions in 2022. The reality is that he had already made the podium of La Vuelta last year, becoming one of only three riders to finish in the top 3 of a Grand Tour before the age of 21, along with Antonio Jimenez (Vuelta 1955) and Giambattista Baronchelli (Giro 1974). He’s now the first rider to win the Tour de France on his first attempt since Laurent Fignon in 1983.
Like the Parisian, Pogacar is young and carefree. He’s shy and humble but very determined to succeed. “Actually, my dream was not to win the Tour de France, it was only to be on the Tour de France”, he noted minutes after being presented with the yellow jersey. That dream goes back ten years when he physically visited the race with his parents Mirko and Marjeta. He doesn’t remember where but he was on the road side in the mountains to watch the 2010 Tour de France. He doesn’t mention the names of Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck who were the duellists (or kind of) that year because, aged 12, three years after taking part in his first bike race for the sake of mimicking his elder brother, he “loved the atmosphere”. The same kind of surroundings boosted his confidence on the way to La Planche des Belles Filles where an enormous crowd had gathered to celebrate the Tour de France.
On 25th July 2010, he was also on the Champs-Elysées because his mother wouldn’t have come to Paris without visiting her friends made during times spent learning the language of Molière. Yes, Pogacar is the son of a French teacher! Marjeta promotes everything that is French in a school in Trbovlje, Roglic’s native town. “She loves everything that’s French: the language, the culture, the history, the cuisine and the Tour de France of course”, Tadej recalled. He doesn’t speak French himself but does speak very articulate English, like Bernal, the young man who paved the way for a second wave of freshness in the sport of cycling.