How Tadej Pogačar won his second Tour de France
Tadej Pogačar wrapped up overall victory at the 2021 Tour de France after Sunday’s stage 21, joining an elite group of back-to-back winners.
The 22-year-old won his second Tour de France title in very different fashion to his first. He won three stages in 2020, but only wore the yellow jersey for one day after robbing Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) in the stage 20 time trial. In 2021 on the other hand, he raced like the virtual leader from the very first weekend and only wore his UAE Team Emirates kit for one day.
A quiet but controlled start is usually the done thing for general classification contenders, but the 2021 Tour route demanded something different. Pogačar was only too happy to comply with the aggression of the opening stages, and as others crashed out or fell away from contention, the young Slovenian only seemed to get stronger as the three-week race progressed.
- Stage 1: sixth on the short climb behind Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and into the white jersey of best young rider
- Stage 2: second on the Mur-de-Bretagne and up to third overall behind new leader Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)
- Stage 5 ITT: victory on the rolling 27.2 km time trial and up to second on GC
- Stage 8: attacked in the rain-soaked Alps and put 3:25 into most of his rivals
- Stage 9: rode away from the GC group on the final climb to Tignes, increasing his margin to more than five minutes over all but stage winner Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citroën)
- Stage 11: kept calm to finish fourth on the stage after showing a moment of weakness when Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) attacked on the second climb of Mont Ventoux
- Stages 17 and 18: Back-to-back stage victories on the Pyrenean climbs of Col du Portet and Luz Ardiden, consolidating his overall lead
With nine top-10 finishes, three stage wins and three classification jerseys to his name, there are plenty of defining moments to choose from in Pogačar’s Tour de France. His back-to-back stage victories in the Pyrenees stand out, as does his dominant time trial effort on stage 5, but the race was won in the Alps.
At the end of stage 9 and before the first rest day, Pogačar held 2:01 over O’Connor, and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-Nippo) was 5:18 down in third. In fourth and fifth place, Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) were separated by just one second, 5:32 and 5:33 off the yellow jersey. Vingegaard’s attack on stage 11 exposed his only sign of weakness and by the time the race got to Paris, Pogačar’s winning margin was 5:20.
“It is just crazy here on the Champs Elysées, coming in the yellow again with an incredible team,” Pogačar said after stage 21. “I cannot express my feelings of how happy I am. With the people I have around, it’s another level. I will remain motivated in the coming years, but what comes next will come next. I’m not stressed about it.
“It’s quite different. Last year, I felt strong, incredible emotions. This year I’m again here, standing atop the podium, but the feelings are quite different. The new Cannibal? I don’t like to compare myself to other riders. Each rider has his own style and personality. Every rider is unique. I don’t think there is anything left. I just enjoy life, I work hard, I love cycling, and those are the most important things.”