Sunday’s processional final Tour de France stage that concluded in Paris confirmed Tadej Pogacar as winner of the race for a second year running.
In truth, Pogacar’s domination of the 2021 Tour has arguably appeared almost a procession at times, particularly after rivals such as countryman Primoz Roglic and Geraint Thomas both suffered crashes early on in the race.
Roglic crashed heavily on stage three, withdrawing from the race a few days later. Despite dislocating his shoulder on stage three, Thomas rode on but dropped down the rankings.
In the mountains, Pogacar was put under pressure by Jonas Vingegaard when the peloton climbed Mont Ventoux twice, but the Slovenian recovered to ensure he didn’t sufferany time loss. The Slovenian then won two summit finishes in the Pyrenees.
The UAE Team Emirates rider won by five minutes and 20 seconds over second-place Vingegaard of Denmark.
It was a measure of Pogacar’s dominance that he also clinching the polka dot and white jerseys as King of the Mountains and best young rider respectively.
Last year, Pogacar became the youngest winner of the famous three-week race since 1904 and the first Slovenian to wear the yellow jersey, cycling’s most coveted prize.
Pogacar announced himself to the world with his shock victory in last year’s Tour de France.
In the year since, he has become a bona fide sporting superstar and his second consecutive Tour victory caps what has been one of the most meteoric rises, of any athlete, in recent memory.
Still just 22 years of age, Pogacar looks set to be a dominant force in cycling’s Grand Tours for many years to come, but the Slovenian has scoffed at the idea that this was the start of a ‘Pogacar era.’
“I don’t consider this the ‘Pogacar era,’” the Slovenian cyclist told reporters after clinching another commanding victory on stage 18. “That’s just stupid in my opinion, but for sure a new era is coming.
“We see so many youngsters stepping up to the highest level and we will see a lot of battles between everybody, so many young names. The next few years will be really tough.”
However, former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, while admitting that Pogacar is “a talented guy”, told ITV4 that “nobody is unbeatable.”
Many of those battling it out at the highest level are Pogacar’s fellow Slovenians.
Roglic, 31, has already established himself as one of the best riders of his generation with two general classification wins in the Vuelta a España, while Matej Mohoric, just 26, is already a two-time Slovenian road race champion and boasts at least one individual stage win on each of cycling’s three Grand Tours, clinching his section Tour stage win on Friday.
Urska Zigart, Pogacar’s girlfriend, claimed the first professional win of her career at just 24 years of age earlier this season to add to the country’s burgeoning cycling reputation.
It is a remarkable achievement for the young nation of just two million people, which has already started to dethrone cycling’s more established powers. France, which hasn’t had a Tour winner since Bernard Hinault in 1985, has a population of more 67 million people.
Pogacar’s ascent to Tour de France glory perhaps wouldn’t have come as a surprise, the only surprise was that it happened so quickly.
Just three years ago, Pogacar won the prestigious Tour l’Avenir, a race for Under-23 riders that follows the conclusion the Tour de France and often some of the same route.
If Pogacar’s victory was one for the ages, this year’s Tour wasn’t always plain sailing, however, after a woman held out a banner and caused the crash of dozens of cyclists during the first stage.
According to the race’s video coverage of Saturday’s incident, the sign hit German rider Tony Martin who was cycling near the head of the pack. Martin fell, which led to the subsequent crash of dozens of riders behind him.
Cyclists fell en masse and the crash left bikes and bodies tangled in the road. The fall held the race up for several minutes.
The woman who allegedly held out a banner was identified and underwent police questioning, the Brest prosecutor’s office told CNN.