Nobody had won two Tour de France in the region of ten months before Tadej Pogacar. Moreover, nobody had won two Tour de France at the age of 23. People often say it’s harder to confirm than to win by surprise for the first time. The Slovenian did it with a natural authority, not only because he outclassed everyone else in his second participation but he’s been simply the world’s best cyclist in his category since he reached Paris with the yellow jersey in September 2020.
In addition to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he won three out of four stage races he took part in this season: UAE Tour in February, Tirreno-Adriatico in March, in April, Tour of Slovenia in June [and finished third at Itzulia Basque Country].
At the difference of last year, Pogacar was the hot favourite of the 2021 Tour de France. The crashes of the first few days hampered the field of his opponents, mainly Primoz Roglic and Geraint Thomas. The difference he made in the first individual time trial in Laval and the impatience he showed up to col de Romme in the first Alpine stage put him in the leading position for good after eight stages out of twenty-one. He admitted it’s been a very different Tour than last year when he moved up to the first place on the eve of the grand finale only.
Nobody had won two mountain stages with the yellow jersey since Bernard Hinault in 1979. Pogacar did it in the Pyrénées, leaving no room to South American climbers for instance.
His grip on the race this time around was similar to what the great champions did in the past. In the eyes of many, he became “little cannibal” when Eddy Merckx visited the race with three days to go. Nobody had won two mountain stages with the yellow jersey since Bernard Hinault in 1979. Pogacar did it in the Pyrénées, leaving no room to South American climbers for instance. He did it with a smile while riding his bike, especially when every time he saw his girlfriend and his parents on the road side on a daily basis. He explained that cycling has always been a game for him since he was ten years old. His whole entourage instructed him to continue having fun during races. Therefore, he doesn’t take his current position as a champion too seriously.
Occasionally, he has handled the responsibility of being the race leader in his attitude towards the rest of the peloton and the outside world. The kid of 2020 has become a man in 2021 but with the same kindness and the same respect he’s got for others. He remains humble. He doesn’t want to hear of a so-called “Pogacar era”. He’s got time ahead of him to win more Tour de France than anybody else before but he’s aware that he’s part of a generation of many talented cyclists, which will make it difficult for him to lead the GC by five minutes or more over his closest rivals again and again in the future. He believes he belongs to a world set to deliver a beautiful cycling for years to come.