E.r is a promise for the future. Tadej Pogacar is just 22 years old. An age when professional cyclists usually dream of starting the Tour de France as an apprentice. But Pogacar is driving to Paris in yellow for the second time. Two victories at the world’s largest bike race at this age! And this with a huge lead of more than five minutes, how should this continue?
Eddy Merckx, who drove his first Tour de France at the age of 24, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Jacques Anquetil each won the Tour of France five times. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see Pogacar rise to the ranks of these champions in three years. With the impressions of this tour in mind, the question is who should beat him in the next few years.
Maybe the Colombian Egan Bernal, 24 years old, who won the 2019 Tour, but was overwhelmed with this victory and was just a man for the Giro d’Italia this season. After all: he won the Tour of Italy, maybe a new beginning for him. Or Jonas Vingegaard, also only 22 years old, second behind Pogacar this time, a newcomer from Denmark. Or a veteran again? One of the old ones? There is almost only Pogacar’s compatriot Primoz Roglic in question, but whether the 31-year-old former ski jumper, badly beaten by Pogacar in the last time trial last year and this time dropped out because of a fall injury, will again muster strength and conviction is uncertain.
A newcomer: Jonas Vingegaard
Pogacar’s superiority is overwhelming. His lead marks a class difference to the competition, also to the runner-up Vingegaard. The Slovenian won the yellow jersey in the Alps with two attacks on the Col de Romme and the Col de la Colombière. He also won the first time trial. In yellow he won two extremely difficult mountain stages in a row in the Pyrenees, one up to the Col du Portet, the other to Luz Ardiden, the last time the great Bernard Hinault achieved that in 1979.
In addition to the yellow jersey, Pogacar also won the dotted and white jerseys, with which the tour decorates the best mountain riders and the best young professionals. At his age, only the Frenchman François Faber, born in 1887, has won more tour stages than him. In general, since his first Tour win, Pogacar has won almost every race he competes in, eleven this season alone. His thirst for victory is as great as his class. It is said that he is the new “cannibal”. In cycling, this is an honorary title that was once awarded to Merckx, the man with 525 victories in road races. There is no question: Pogacar is a promise for the future. But it is also different.
“The suspicion is earned”
It is a reminder of the past. “He’s a living, breathing, cycling testament to the miracle of life.” That’s what USA Today wrote in 2002 about Lance Armstrong after his fourth Tour win. Today we know: everything is just smoke and mirrors. Doping. Armstrong won the Tour seven times, and none of his wins today is more than an embarrassment. Now a rider with just as perfect superiority is cranking through the peloton, the new wonder of cycling. You can, you have to cast doubts on it.
When Pogacar improved his record by 29 seconds on the climb to Col de Romme, the French doping analyst Antoine Vayer called him “Pogastrong”. The watt numbers he determined are comparable to those of Armstrong, he explained. Doubts also fuel the fact that Pogacar’s UAE team has a number of people in key roles with a history of doping. Sports director is Neil Stephens. The Australian was a professional cyclist himself, rode for the doping-contaminated Festina team and admitted in 1998 that he had doped with EPO, unintentionally, of course, that he thought it was a vitamin preparation.