Merckx: Pogačar 'the new Cannibal'

Tour de France great Eddy Merckx was on site to greet the riders in person as the race rolled out from Mourenx, and while he wasn't able to witness Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) beat his stage win record on the day, he did have some special compliments for the man in the race lead, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).

It might have been the day that Merckx's stage win record fell, but the peloton didn't have enough appetite for a sprint, with most teams keen for a breakaway to take the day. It postponed Cavendish’s date with destiny to the Champs-Élyées on Sunday evening, the potential for a 35th Tour de France win on hold until then.

While Merckx and Cavendish met, hugged and exchanged words before the stage, Merckx saved his highest praise for the man in the yellow jersey, Tadej Pogačar.

“I see in him the new Cannibal,” Merckx said of Pogačar.

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“He has already won one Tour and normally he will win his second. 

“He is extremely strong. I see him winning several editions of the Tour in the coming years. If nothing happens to him, he can certainly win the Tour de France more than five times.”



Merckx was part of the yellow jeresy presentation ceremony for Pogačar on the podium in Libourne. Pogačar, who will also win both the best young rider and king of the mountains classifications in Paris on Sunday, the second consecutive time he has completed the feat, paid tribute to Merckx in his race leader's interview after the ceremony.

“It is huge to stand with Eddy Merckx on the podium,” said Pogačar. "He is a hero in cycling. I don’t consider myself as a hero, but I hope I am inspiring lots of kids to ride their bikes."



Pogačar showed signs of his growth as a leader in the race, telling off riders attacking in the immediate aftermath of an early crash during Stage 19. The riders withdrew to the peloton and the race was unofficially neutralised for a short time before the attacks again started to flow. 

“There were a few crashes and splits at the start of the stage today. It is really not nice to begin a race like this," said Pogačar. "We then kept the bunch quiet for a bit, but after the sprint we went on full attack mode. It was a pretty strange race. But then a group went away, and the bunch turned quiet again.”

The Tour de France continues with tomorrow's Stage 20, an individual time trial over 30.8 kilometres from Libourne to Saint-Emilion. Watch the action from 8:30pm (AEST) on SBS and SBS On Demand with coverage starting on the SKODA Tour Tracker from 8:55pm (AEST). 


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3 min read
Published 17 July 2021 at 4:06am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS