Tadej Pogacar set to retain Tour de France title after stage 20 time trial

Tadej Pogacar effectively sealed his second consecutive overall Tour victory as Wout van Aert won the penultimate stage of the race, the final time trial between Libourne and Saint-Émilion. Barring a catastrophic mishap, Pogacar will be crowned champion again on the Champs Élysées on Sunday evening.

In the time trial the UAE Emirates rider ceded the best part of half a minute to Van Aert’s Danish teammate, the second-placed Jonas Vingegaard, though the margin of his overall win remained well over five minutes.

“I took a bit of time from him so maybe that’s a bit of confidence for the future, that he’s not unbeatable,” Vingegaard said.

Such was Pogacar’s dominance that he claimed three of the Tour’s four classifications, the yellow jersey, the King of the Mountains jersey and the best young rider jersey. Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz, of the Ineos Grenadiers, were the only riders to finish within 10 minutes of the Slovenian.

Pogacar has been dominant throughout. With mishap after mishap befalling the teams of his closest rivals, Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers, and their pre-race leaders, Primoz Roglic and Geraint Thomas, Pogacar was in command as early as the first time trial, on stage five.

He was the shock winner in 2020 as he usurped Roglic in the final time trial. This year’s outcome, however, has been a foregone conclusion.

“It’s more enjoyable because last year even I didn’t expect to win,” he said. “I was happy with second place and then it was a lot of emotion going left and right after the time trial, but this year I can enjoy the moment more than last year. It’s really different.”

Having dominated the Tour, Pogacar leaves on Monday for the Olympic Games in Japan, where he will compete in the road race.

“After the Tour, there is not much time to recover. There’s also jet lag and in Japan it’s super hot now with humidity. I will start the race positive and with motivation because it’s the Olympics and it only comes every four years. I will grab it and try to race for the win.”

Van Aert’s stage win was his second of the Tour, following his win on the double ascent of Mont Ventoux. “It means a lot,” he said. “Winning a Tour time trial is not ordinary. It’s an achievement that was on my bucket list and today was the day that it finally worked.”

However, as the Tour reached its final weekend, a flurry of reports in the French media focused on claims of possible technological fraud, or the use of motors, by some riders. Van Aert was quick to give the suggestion short shrift. “I can only talk about myself and I am sure how I came to this level,” he said.

“I worked super hard all year on the road to become a better bike rider. I’m really sure it’s not happening within our team or within the entire peloton.”

But Van Aert may yet rain on Mark Cavendish’s parade. Like Cavendish he is targeting the final sprint stage, expected by many to be the scene of the British rider taking a 35th Tour stage win, which would be a new record.

“I’m still motivated,” Van Aert said. “The sprint on the Champs-Élysées is iconic and I don’t want to miss out on any opportunity to win the stage.”