from tyrannical victor to magnificent loser, Tadej Pogacar is human again at the Col de la Loze

The Slovenian, who had already taken a severe blow to his helmet during the time trial on Tuesday, gave up any chance of winning the Tour on Wednesday.

“I am free. I am dead.” The words are short, hurried, breathless. They are those of Tadej Pogacar, glued to the bitumen in the interminable climb of the Col de la Loze, Wednesday 19 July, on his team’s radio. Already 1’38” behind Jonas Vingegaard in Tuesday’s time trial, the Slovenian had nevertheless crushed the rest of the group himself. Wednesday he joined the others, letting slip an impassive Jonas Vingegaard towards a second Tour, and visibly determined not to leave hope to anyone, and above all to Pogacar.

Result: 5 minutes and 45 seconds to add to his outlay, for a delay that now culminates at 7 minutes and 35 seconds ahead of the Dane. “I don’t know what happened. At the bottom of the last climb I was completely exhausted. I ate a lot but it didn’t happen to my legs. I’m extremely disappointed”he repeated.

If the crash at the start of the stage and the heat can partially explain his terrible day, Tadej Pogacar experienced the second major failure of his Tour career. In 2022, no one expected him to get so stuck at the Col du Granon. This time, we might be guessing some warning signs. Since the puy de Dôme (9th stage), he had never taken Vingegaard off his wheel. The start of the time trial quickly gave the measure of the slap he would have taken.

Tadej Pogacar quickly took off his glasses on Wednesday, opened his shirt and didn’t show the smile that comes under any circumstances. He had a livid complexion at the foot of the last pass, shortness of breath, the helmet slightly unscrewed. Mass was soon said. “Yesterday he probably took a blow to the back of the neck despite the good weather, which must have tired him out. Today he escaped with great class”claims his manager Mauro Gianetti, satisfied to see that his driver hasn’t lost any position in the general standings.

While Jonas Vingegaard, behind his opaque glasses, flaunted his razor-sharp fangs and flew off to kill the Tour, Pogacar fell back to the level of the others, the ones he used to roll mercilessly on the classics this year, or on the Tour in 2021. Tower. “It’s the first time I’ve seen him like this, but it’s something that will allow him to become aware of himself. Even if we are Tadej Pogacar, we can’t do everything” tempers Mauro Gianetti.

The Tour is over, Tadej Pogacar knows it. He won’t get on the top step of the podium for the second consecutive year. If the excuse of a preparation cut short by his wrist injury holds up, the Slovenian could only grab small packets of seconds when Jonas Vingegaard landed three big shots that knocked him down every time: on Marie-Blanque’s pass, on the stopwatch and on Loze’s pass. “With this kind of preparation, only Tadej can accomplish what he’s doing. Probably no other rider could have arrived at the Tour in such good condition.”his manager insisted.

Dolphin in the standings, leader on the roadside

But Tadej Pogacar may not have lost everything on Wednesday. While Jonas Vingegaard leaves the group in awe and at times recalls the dominance of the Sky team, the Slovenian zebulon, who has endorsed these same criticisms since his explosion in 2020, appears more humane because he is fallible. “The real Tadej is the one who attacks in the classics, who has won two Tours. It’s not what we saw today”acknowledged Mauro Gianetti.

Affable outside the competition, playful on his days off, stick under his arm or somersaults in the pool, Pogacar spent Wednesday in the box of the magnificent losers. His fiery character in the competition and his modesty had already allowed him to win the hearts of a large part of the public.

“I think he touched everyone’s heart today. Everyone wants him back as soon as possible.”

Mauro Gianetti on Tadej Pogacar

July 19th

Despite his setbacks, it will be important to remember that Tadej Pogacar is still swinging one leg above all others, where Jonas Vingegaard happily switches both legs. If in Combloux he didn’t hesitate to greet his rival by accepting his defeat, the Slovenian was unable to hide his sadness on the podium in the white jersey on Tuesday. “Yesterday after the meal I spoke to him, just two minutes, to support him, support the person. He has been through a lot, he has made many sacrifices for his preparation, he has left his family, his home. It’s important to create a good atmosphere around Tadej, in good times, in bad times and especially in bad times.” emphasizes its sporting director Joxean Fernandez Matxin.

Catastrophic day for the 24-year-old Slovenian who struggled from the start with a crash within the group.  Outpaced at the Col de la Loze by Jonas Vingegaard and the other favourites, Tadej Pogacar has lost almost any chance of overthrowing the Tour de France.  He remains provisionally second in the general standings at 7'37" from the Danish, even more leader than ever...

Tadej Pogacar should probably finish second in the Tour and concede the throne once again to Jonas Vingegaard. In 2022, the surprise argument might work. For the second time, the fallen king must bend his knee. He leaves the crown to the imperturbable Dane, but this year Pogacar has undoubtedly conquered what Vingegaard has not yet, and perhaps never will: the affection of the general public, which every year discovers his intrepid character and his flaws a little more than he does. This is how the legends of the Tour also take shape.

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