PARIS (Reuters) – Tadej Pogacar became the first Slovenian to win the Tour de France after keeping the yellow jersey in Sunday’s 21st stage, the day after scoring a major coup to take the lead in the overall standings.
While Sam Bennett won the final stage, the day belonged to Team UAE Emirates rider Pogacar, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Monday and is the youngest man to win the race since Henri Cornet in 1904.
Pogacar, who took the yellow jersey from Primoz Roglic stunned with a monumental performance in Saturday’s time trial, also won the white jersey for the best Under 25 runner and the polka dot jersey for the mountains classification.
Roglic finished second, 59 seconds behind, with Australian Richie Porte in third place, 3:30 off the pace.
“This is an incredible feeling to be on the top step of the podium here in Paris. It’s been a fantastic three weeks, an incredible journey, “said Pogacar after his first double for a country since Bradley Wiggins finished ahead of fellow Brit Chris Froome in 2012.
“I want to thank everyone who made it possible. It was a memorable three weeks on the French roads, with an incredible crowd. I will not find the words to express my feelings. “
Pogacar also won three stages in one of the most brilliant individual performances in recent Tour history, leaving Roglic Jumbo-Visma’s dominant team wondering what went wrong.
“We didn’t see him coming,” said Roglic’s teammate and former Tour runner-up Tom Dumoulin.
Bennett became the first Irishman since Sean Kelly in 1989 to win the green jersey for the points standings, ahead of Peter Sagan who was looking to claim it for a record eighth time.
Bennett was the strongest at the end of the 122km run from Mantes-la Jolie on Sunday, beating world champion Mads Pedersen, with Sagan finishing third.
The Swiss Marc Hirschi, the former Under 23 World Champion was voted the most aggressive in the race after taking a brilliant victory in the longest stage of the 107th edition.
Ineos-Grenadiers had a Tour to forget when reigning champion Egan Bernal dropped out of competition in the Jura stage at the Grand Colombier, retiring a few days later with back pain.
However, they regained some pride afterwards, as Michal Kwiatkowski, their unsung hero for five years, took a thrilling stage win, although this was certainly not enough for a team that had won seven of eight editions. previous.
It was an anti-climate finale on the Champs-Elysees as only 5,000 fans were allowed on the famous boulevard as a precaution against the coronavirus.
France reported 13,498 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours prior to Saturday, setting another record of additional daily infections since the outbreak began.
Reaching the Champs-Elysees was, however, a relief for the organizers, who had imposed strict health rules to protect the race “bubble”.
The bubble did not burst as only four team staff members tested positive and were removed from the race, preventing a spread that could have stopped the Tour.
No pilot tested positive.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis and Christian Radnedge