If we didn’t suspect it to be the case already, Tadej Pogacar’s performance on Stage 8 proved beyond a doubt that he is the strongest rider at this year’s Tour de France.
His attack on the Col de Romme took him to a level far beyond that which any of his rivals was capable of matching. “Awesome” is a word we dish out all too readily but there can be no better one than “awe” to describe the look on Soren Kragh Anderson’s face as the 22 year-old Slovenian danced past him.
Most terrifying of all is that, somehow, it seemed like Pogacar was nevertheless riding within himself. As he wolfed up the road, at no point did he appear to be stretching, or approaching the bounds of his physiology. If things continue on their current trajectory, he’s headed to one of the biggest victory margins we’ve seen for a decade or more.
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Teuns comes home for emotional Stage win before new leader Pogacar rolls home

If there’s one thing we know about the Tour de France, however, it’s that it’s seldom that predictable. On the one hand, we’re only a week into the race, and Pogacar looks to be in a dominant position; on the other, that means there’s still two weeks left, a full thirteen stages, and a lot can happen in two weeks.
Not that we would wish misfortune upon him for a moment, but it’s absolutely true that the same chaos that brought his compatriot Primoz Roglic’s challenge to a premature conclusion, could swing its hand in Pogacar’s direction. Heaven forbid he crash, but it’s possible. He could also become ill, fall victim to a catastrophic mechanical in a particularly difficult place on the road. Or he could overextend himself, and find his incredible form fall down the other side of the parabola.
And even if none of that happens, the rest are not without options at their disposal. The position Pogacar might soon find himself in could work to his disadvantage, if all the other teams decide that winning in the conventional way - by beating the rider on the road - is beyond them. While Dan Lloyd’s earlier suggestion that every team might now become stage hunters was meant tongue-in-cheek, there’s a version of it that could come to fruition.
Imagine a scenario, similar to the one we saw yesterday, in which a large break is able to get away. In the mountains Pogacar might be able to do everything himself but on a flat, or semi-flat stage, he’ll need not just his own team to work to pull it back, but a few others as well. What if they refuse to? To bring our extremities into it again, on the one hand he leads almost every rider in the race by more than five minutes, on the other, there are still 25 men within twenty minutes of him. You might say that’s impossible, but put the right rider, in the right place at the right time... If, say, crosswinds were to come into play (there’s that element of chaos I was talking about again) then we have ourselves a ball game. Ever heard of Roger Walkowiak? You should have.

'Off the charts' - The Breakaway reacts to Tadej Pogacar

Even if that unlikeliest of outcomes becomes an impossible one, and Pogacar continues his relentless march towards Paris, there are still several reasons to keep tuning into the Tour. There’s the small matter of the fact that you actually don’t want to miss what could prove to be the most dominant Tour de France victory in decades. Tadej Pogacar is increasingly looking like a once-in-a-generation rider - or more - and if he arrives on the Champs Elysees with a double digit lead, won’t you want to be able to say “I saw that”? Today was no less exciting for his voracity.
Pogacar also won’t win every stage. He cannot. He is human, after all. He’s “only” taken one (so far) which means there are thirteen more opportunities for everyone else.
Let’s not forget that as well as Pogacar we have the other most exciting rider in the world, Mathieu van der Poel, in the Tour. With one stage under his own belt, he should now be unshackled from the responsibilities of the maillot jaune and return to racing by instinct once again. Wout van Aert remains too close a contender to Pogacar to be allowed the same leeway but what if he too is allowed to become a racer once again? A rekindling of one of the greatest rivalries in cycling could be a sight to see.

Highlights: Catch up with everything from a barnstorming Stage 8 at the Tour de France

And then there’s Mark Cavendish. The Merckx record is not as important as simply seeing him happy and winning Tour stages again, but a happy by-product of him being happy and winning Tour stages, is that he’s getting closer to breaking that record. Two weeks to Paris and, well, it’d be nice, wouldn’t it?
So you might want to declare that the Tour de France is over. We’re going to politely beg to differ. Tomorrow we’re in the Alps on the final stage before the rest day, and anything really can happen. See you bright and early, yeah?
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