CYCLING: Pogacar’s stunning time trial earns him the Tour de France as a rookie at age 21

Slovenia's Padej Pogacar on his way into Paris to win the 2020 Tour de France (Photo: Chabe1 via Wikipedia)

Heading into the final weekend of the coronavirus-delayed Tour de France, there was little doubt that Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic would be the winner, holding a 57-second lead over countryman Tadej Pogacar with just the Individual Time Trial and the ride into Paris remaining.

But Yogi Berra was right – it isn’t over until it’s over – and the 21-year-old Pogacar authored a brilliant ride, gaining time all the way up to the finish at La Planche des Belles Filles and won the stage, clocking 55:55.

How good was that? No one was within 1:21, with veteran time trial stars Tom Dumoulin (NED) and Riche Porte (AUS) both finishing that far back, and Roglic in fifth, some 1:56 behind.

That flipped the leaderboard and gave Pogacar, in his first Tour de France, the yellow jersey, which he carried right through the finish line in Paris on Sunday. The result is a stunner in so many ways:

● Pogacar won at age 21 (his 22nd birthday is Monday!), the second-youngest rider ever, behind only the 1904 winner Henri Cornet (FRA), who was 19 when he second the second Tour. He follows Egan Bernal (COL), who won in 2019 at age 22.

● Pogacar became the 12th rookie to win the Tour; the last to do so was Laurent Fignon (FRA) in 1983. Two five-time winners of the Tour also won as rookies: Eddy Merckx (BEL) in 1969 and Bernard Hinault (FRA) in 1978.

● Pogacar won not only the overall title, but also the Young Rider title (white jersey) and the King of the Mountains crown (polka dot jersey). No one had won three jerseys in a single race since Merckx took the overall win, Points (green jersey) and King of the Mountains in 1969. Wow!

● Pogacar and Roglic finished 1-2, the first time since 2012 that one country has produced the top two finishers. Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome (GBR) did it eight years ago.

Roglic, who held the yellow jersey from the finish of stage 9 through stage 19, finished second, just 59 seconds back of the winner, the 10th-closest Tour finish in history. Australia’s Riche Porte was third (-3:30), followed by Mikel Landa (ESP: -5:58) and Enric Mas (ESP: -6:07).

The final stage ended in the usual mass sprint, with Sam Bennett of Ireland capping a fabulous performance with a win at the line over Mads Pedersen (DEN) and Slovakian star Peter Sagan. Bennett won the Points classification (green jersey), outlasting Sagan, 380-284, and breaking Sagan’s streak of seven straight Points win at the Tour.

Pogacar won the Tour by winning three of the 21 stages and finishing in the top 11 on six more stages. Sprinters Bennett, Wout van Aert (BEL) and Caleb Ewan (AUS) each won two stages, as did Soren Kragh Andersen (DEN).

It was a memorable tour, but there is little rest for most of the stars with the UCI World Road Championships starting up later this week in Italy.

The biggest race of the Women’s World Tour is annually the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile, this year held over nine stages. Just as with the men, the apparent winner turned out not to be the winner after all.

Already the two-time defending champion, Dutch star Annemiek van Vleuten took charge of the race in the second stage and looked to be an easy winner once again, and become only the second to win three consecutive editions of the Giro Rosa.

But during the final downhill into Maddaloni at the end of Stage 7, van Vleuten and Mitchelton-Scott teammate Amanda Spratt (AUS) crashed and both had to abandon the race. Van Vleuten suffered a broken left wrist and Spratt ended up with a concussion and a bruised right shoulder.

Amazingly, both finished the stage, and with just two stages remaining, van Vleuten still led the race by a huge 1:48 over Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma and 2:03 over another former Dutch winner, Anna van der Breggen.

But with van Vleuten out, the hilly eighth stage made the difference. Van der Breggen lost the stage at the line to Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini, but the pair were well ahead of the field after the uphill finish and flipped the overall standings.

Van der Breggen took over, with a 1:10 lead on Niewiadoma and 2:23 on Longo Borghini with the final ride around Motta Montecorvino, including another uphill finish. France’s Evita Muzic won the stage in 3:16:30 with Longo Borghini-van der Breggen-Niewiadoma finishing 22-24-27 and that kept the trophy in the Netherlands for another year.

Van der Breggen won her third Giro Rosa after 2015-17 and became the fourth three-time winner of the event. Niewiadoma finished 1:14 behind and Longo Borghini was third, 2:20 behind. It’s the fourth straight win for a Dutch woman in this race, and eight of the last 10.