Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) will already be thinking about the 2023 Tour de France after seeing his three-peat dream snuffed out by Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), according to Bradley Wiggins.
Pogacar held the yellow jersey until Stage 11, where he was bludgeoned by a sensational double attack from Jumbo duo Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic. With both looking menacing in the GC battle, Pogacar decided to chase moves from both riders down – a decision that ultimately left him unable to respond when Vingegaard ripped away on the final climb.
Undeterred, the Slovenian repeatedly went on the attack in a bid to wrestle back the leader’s jersey, most notably on the final day in the Pyrenees when an extraordinary passage of events led to Vingegaard slowing down to allow Pogacar to catch up after a crash.
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Pogacar had forced a mistake from his rival as Vingegaard swerved wildly out of a corner on Stage 18 – only avoiding a nasty crash by unclipping his left shoe and veering dangerously across the road. But the Dane latched back onto Pogacar, who then overcooked a corner and slid out on the gravel on the outside of the road.
Then, in a remarkable twist, Vingegaard decided to coast down the mountain and wait for the man whose aggressive riding had almost unseated him just moments earlier, with the pair sharing an iconic handshake.
Despite finishing second in the general classification, Pogacar has cut a jovial figure before, during and after stages – even finding time to launch two cheeky attacks on Sunday’s procession into Paris.
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And Wiggins believes that his class in defeat is a promising sign as he targets vengeance next year.
“That guy is something special and he’s proved that the last couple of years,” said 2012 champion Wiggins.
“Sometimes when you taste defeat like he has and the way he’s handled it afterwards, the sportsmanship he’s shown, that smile on his face... underneath there’s a burning fire and he’s already thinking about next year.
“He’s going to learn from this now because it’s not until you taste defeat and failure that you come back stronger, and I think he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in the next couple of years.”
A wonderful edition of the Tour came to a close in Paris with Jumbo-Visma crossing the line to celebrate Vingegaard’s overall win and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) storming the final sprint by a number of bike lengths.
Robbie McEwen added on Pogacar: “It’s going to add fuel to his competitive fire going into next year, he’s going to analyse the mistakes that were made, he’s going to rectify those, he’s going to come out swinging for next year.”
Stage 21 highlights: Philipsen powers to victory as Vingegaard is crowned champion
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