By Carlos de Torres
Paris, Jul 18 (EFE).- Slovenian cyclist Tadej Pogacar, riding for the United Arab Emirates, won his second consecutive Tour de France title on Sunday, an achievement that legendary riders such as Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault had been unable to accomplish at the same age of 22.
Pogacar went into the final leg of the race as the winner of the 108th edition of the Tour riding from Chatou to the French capital and then down the Champs-Elysees, a run of 108.4 km (67.2 miles).
Belgium’s Wout Van Aert, with Jumbo Visma, won the stage, his second consecutive victory, beating out Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish (with Deceuninck) and denying him the chance to break Merckx’s record of 34 stage victories. As it stands, Cavendish finished with four stage wins during this Tour, but he was hoping for a fifth to give him a total of 35, and a new record.
Van Aert surprised Cavendish, who came in third in the final stage but who – as a consolation prize – managed to secure the green jersey for points once again.
Cavendish, 36, had been plagued by injuries, and Van Aert had said he would give his all to defend fellow Belgian Merckx’s record.
With the stage win, however, Van Aert became the first man since Hinault in 1979 to win a mountain stage, a sprint and a time-trial during the same Tour.
“It’s been such a roller coaster and to finish off with a win like this is beyond my expectations,” he said after the race.
The Cavendish story was the main focus of the final stages of this year’s Tour, with Pogacar having dominated the three-week crash-plagued race right from the start and never having his possession of the yellow jersey threatened after Stage 7.
The Slovenian stood on the winner’s podium listening with great emotion to his country’s national hymn with his family, parents and siblings in attendance.
Pogacar finished five minutes and 20 seconds ahead of second-place Jonas Vingegaard, the 24-year-old Jumbo Visma rider from Denmark, with Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz, with Ineos, rounding out the top three on the victory podium.
After the win, Pogacar said that “Cycling is like a game for me, and that’s why I enjoy it.”
Vingegaard, who only recently was working in a fish processing factory, is the first Dane to appear on the Tour podium since Bjarne Riis won the Tour de France in 1996.
Carapaz, meanwhile, the winner of the 2019 Giro d’Italia, had come in second in the 2020 Vuelta a España and was extremely happy to take third place in the French event.
Pogacar – now the man to beat in world cycling – was scheduled to fly to Tokyo for the Olympic Games immediately after the race, and later he will compete in the 2021 Vuelta.