Rookie pro Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) finished safely in the bunch on the seventh and final stage today to secure his first WorldTour title win ahead of 21-year-old Colombian Sergio Higuita (EF Education First) and 24-year-old Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step). The 20-year-old Slovenian is now the youngest ever winner of a WorldTour stage race.
The trio bettered some of the best climbers in cycling’s top tier on what race organsiers touted as the most difficult course in the event’s history, with the peloton tackling four consecutive stages each in excess of 200 kilometres as well as a summit finish at Mt Baldy, which Pogačar won.
They also took on a field that included Grand Tour contenders and some of the best climbers, sprinters and domestiques in the business, including but not limited to Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida), Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Tejay van Garderen and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First).
Pogačar sat in a post-race press conference at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena at the end of Stage 7, clutching a plush toy bear trophy as he answered questions with maturity in English, conscious not of the afterparty he wouldn’t be legally allowed to drink at here but on making an imminent flight home.
Beside him was Asgreen who won the green jersey, which at this race and the majority of others has until now been synonymous with Sagan. The Dane was audacious on the road but showed his young age in the paddock, somewhat timid and asking his team press officer for permission to speak with journalists whom became increasingly interested in his name.
“This stage race is really hard, the stage races in Europe are also hard and I think there is just a really good young generation coming up now,” Asgreen said.
“It’s natural that this generation is starting to make results and I think we saw that in Europe as well over the last few months … I was second in Flanders. There has been a lot of big results from young riders in the past months.”
The same could be said for sprinters that prevailed here. Established statesman Sagan took the bunch gallop on day one in Sacramento, but it was 23-year-old Cees Bol (Sunweb) who prevailed today in Pasadena following a big crash on the home straight. In fact, Sagan was the only stage winner of the entire race older than 24.
"There is a generation shift and it’s also different sprints now,” said Sunweb sports director Aike Visbeek. “You not only have to be fast, but you also have to be able to use your elbows because the sprints are more chaotic now. Whereas before the raw power was the key. Cees has both, he’s fast and strong but more for the decimated bunch sprint than the fast sprints.”