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September 21, 2020

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Pogacar rides to victory at COVID-defying Tour

Riding high on a performance for the ages, 21-year-old Tour de France rookie Tadej Pogacar was cruising into Paris with the race leader’s iconic yellow jersey yesterday, on his way to becoming the youngest post-war winner of the showpiece event that braved, and overcame, France’s worsening coronavirus epidemic.

On the 21st and final stage, a traditional procession where only riders not in the running for the podium chase the prestige of the stage victory in the finishing sprint to the line, the Tour was celebrating multiple victories.

First and foremost, for Pogacar, who left the race breathless by snatching away the overall lead from Slovenian countryman Primoz Roglic at the last possible opportunity, in a high-drama time trial on Saturday, the penultimate stage with the last real racing for the title.

But the Tour was celebrating a victory, too — over the coronavirus. It left the start town of Nice on the Mediterranean three weeks ago unsure that it would be able to negotiate unscathed through the epidemic to yesterday’s finish on Paris’ tree-lined Champs-Elysees boulevard.

But none of the 176 riders who started, or the 146 finishers who were riding into Paris, tested positive in multiple batteries of tests, validating the bubble of measures put in place by Tour organizers to shield them from infection. Roadside fans still cheered them on, mostly through face masks, but were kept well away at stage starts and finishes.

On Saturday, in a dramatic last-gasp turnaround Pogacar won the Tour as overnight leader Roglic, 30, suffered a mountainside meltdown during the thrilling individual time-trial.

It was a staggering end to a bizarre Tour and the penultimate stage duel between two compatriots of different generations will go down as one of 2020’s great sporting moments.

Staggeringly, the youngster Pogacar will also pull on the polka dot jersey as best climber on the Tour, and also the white one as best under-25s rider.


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