• Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates on the Tour de France podium on the Champs-Élysées (Getty)Source: Getty
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) won the Tour de France on the eve of his 22nd birthday, finishing the traditional final stage on the Champs-Élysées within the main bunch and securing the win.
By
SBS Cycling Central

21 Sep 2020 - 4:35 AM 

After claiming the yellow jersey with a brilliant performance on the penultimate stage time trial, Pogačar had a more relaxed final day in the saddle as he highlighted the helping role of his teammates, took pictures at the start of the stage and received the congratulations of riders in the peloton.

“It’s unbelievable, it’s crazy," said Pogačar on the Champs-Élysées."Even if I came second or last it wouldn’t it matter, it would have been nice to be here. But this is top of the top, I cannot describe this feeling with words.

"It has been a long journey, which began well before we started in Nice and has ended in the most beautiful way. My season was focused on the Tour de France from the start of the year, the preparation was perfect and well planned by the team with training camps and training plans during the lockdown.

"I was always focused even in the difficult moments when the racing stopped earlier in the year."

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Pogačar produces legendary performance to seize Tour de France yellow jersey
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) produced one of the greatest time trial performances in Tour de France history, overhauling a 57-second gap to previous race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) to take the stage win, the mountains jersey and the ultimate prize, the yellow jersey.

Pogačar was an outsider for many at the start of the Tour de France, with defending champion Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) and the Jumbo-Visma pair of Tom Dumoulin and Primož Roglič favoured by most pundits. The path to yellow was not without its setbacks, Pogačar had lost teammates Fabio Aru and Davide Formolo by Stage 10 and lost time on Stage 7 in the crosswinds. 

"I arrived at the Grande Boucle in good shape, along the way we lost two teammates, but the team managed to maintain a great atmosphere," said Pogačar. "It was a pleasure to experience this, with all my teammates and staff members by my side, the challenges that the Tour offered up every day, trying to always remain calm and, at the same time, concentrated. I really still can’t believe what fantastic moments I have lived!"

The 21-year-old is ready to celebrate with his teammates, friends, and parents. His mother and father were present at the race, clearly emotional during the podium presentations when they saw their son atop the podium on the Champs-Élysées with the Slovenian national anthem playing. 

The podium presentation of the 2020 Tour de France.

Pogačar and Roglič were hailed with a winner's parade in Ljubljana after their joint success in the 2019 Vuelta a Espana, but Pogačar himself downplayed too much celebration in the wake of his near-birthday victory.

“This would be the best birthday present, but I’m not a fan of my birthdays.”

Pogačar seems to take as much joy in his teammates and relations with others as his personal victories and spoke of his joy in the interactions during the final stage and the run into Paris.

"Today was very special, special moments with my teammates," said Pogačar. "It was nice to talk with my team on the bike, not just going full gas all day. A lot of respect from the other riders, I think everyone single one of them congratulated me today. I’m really thankful, this sport is amazing."

The Slovenian anthem plays on the Champs-Élysées.