Pogacar wins Tour de France, but Bennett wins last sprint stage in Paris

Paris, Sep 20 (efe-epa).- Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar won the Tour de France on Sunday, although Ireland’s Sam Bennett took the green jersey by winning the last, and largely ceremonial, “sprint” stage along the Champs-Elysees in Paris, calling it “a very special” victory.

Just one day before turning 22, Pogacar – with UAE Team Emirates – became the second-youngest Tour de France winner in the history of the iconic cycling road race with an overall time of 87:20:05, coming in 59 seconds ahead of countryman Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and three-and-a-half minutes in front of Australia’s Richie Porte (Trek-Segafrdo), both of whom accompanied him on the winner’s podium.

“Winning the Tour was not an objective, it was a dream,” said the Slovenian rider after the race. “When we came to the Tour with my team, we didn’t think about winning … It was a dream, but sometimes dreams come true.”

Pogacar crossed the finish line wearing the yellow jersey on the Champs d’Elysee, the wide Paris avenue where the final stage of the race has traditionally been held.

The young rider had prevailed in the Stage 20 time trial in La Planche des Belles Filles, France, on Saturday, thus all but assuring himself of winning the Tour de France on Sunday.

He had begun the Saturday stage ranked second in the General Classification, 57 seconds behind Roglic, his close friend and countryman riding for Jumbo Visma, who had spent 11 days in the yellow jersey.

But on Saturday, Pogacar completed the 36 km (22.5 mi) course in 55:55 to take an insurmountable lead of 59 seconds over his compatriot before Sunday’s final stage into Paris.

“When they told me yesterday that I could win it was an indescribable feeling. It was a (feeling of) insanity after an incredible adventure. I don’t think I’ve realized it yet and it’s going to be weeks before I digest it,” the cyclist said.

Pogacar, sporting a yellow facemask and holding up the Slovenian flag during his time on the podium with the Arc de Triomphe in the background, thanked the public for their support during the three week race across France.

“It’s been incredible. I thank everyone who’s made it possible for their support, my family, my team, for these three memorable weeks. And also the public who has not stopped supporting me on the race. I don’t have the words (to thank them),” he told EFE.

“It’s unbelievable, it’s really crazy. Even if I had come second or last it would still be nice to be here,” he said. “But this is the top of the top. I cannot describe this feeling with words. Today was very special, a special moment with my team-mates. Finally some chance to talk with them on the bike and not just going full gas every day … This sport is really amazing.”

Meanwhile, after winning the final stage of the race on Sunday, Bennett, riding for Deceuninck-Quick-Step, took the green jersey and said: “I can’t tell you how excited I am. The green jersey, the Champs-Elysees, world championships of sprints? I never thought I’d ever be able to in this stage. And to do it in green, with my dream team is so special. The way the boys rode all day, they were fantastic. The feeling is so amazing, I can’t thank everyone enough.”

This is the second stage win for Bennett in this year’s Tour, and the achievement enabled him to lead the peloton in the point totals. The Irishman on Sunday beat out Denmark’s Mads Pedersen and Slovakia’s Peter Sagan in the final leg of the race.

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