Tadej Pogačar is once again writing the history of Slovenian cycling. The two-time winner of the Tour de France justified the high expectations of the Slovenian and world public. A 22-year-old phenomenon from Klanec near Komenda performed an exceptional ride and won the first Olympic medal in the history of Slovenian cycling!
On the 1st day of the competition, the Olympic Games in Tokyo offered one of the highlights for the Slovenian public – a road race in which two Slovenian heroes, Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič, were amongst the favorites to win an Olympic medal.
The more than 230 km long road race under Mount Fuji promised a real spectacle as one of the most difficult routes in the history of Olympic cycling. Despite a less friendly timing for European cycling fans, the spectacular road race attracted a large number of cycling enthusiasts in front of their TV screens.
Jan Tratnik certainly has a huge amount of credit for the Slovenian success, as he started dictating a sharp pace about 170 km before the finish line, making sure that the peloton caught all breakaway riders before the ascent to the Mikuri pass. Before the start of the road test, the ascent to the Mikuri pass was considered the decisive point of the race. Pogačar was the first to attack on the mentioned ascent causing a major selection amoungst the riders in the peloton. Tadej did not manage to gain a bigger advantage until the top of the pass, so after the descent, a leading group of 13 best riders was formed.
On paper, the first favorite for the gold medal in the leading group was the Belgian Van Aert, followed by the only remaining Slovenian hope – Pogačar. The rivals wanted to get rid of the Belgian and the Slovene in every possible way with numerous attacks. Eventually, McNulty and Carapaz managed to escape. About 5km to the finish, however, a group of riders with Pogačar managed to catch McNulty, while Carapaz was already too far away. In the battle for the remaining two medals, Van Aert and Pogačar were by far the strongest in the final group sprint. The shine of the medals was decided by the photo finish, in which the Tour de France Champion was just a few centimeters short of upsetting the Belgian sprinter.
Slovenia celebrated its hero. To win an Olympic medal, Tadej Pogačar gave absolutely everything that was left in him and won the hearts of Slovenian fans with his determination to keep fighting until the very end. An unforgettable success that will forever be written in the history of Slovenian cycling.
“I can’t describe the emotion that’s filling me. I’m speechless. I gave so much of myself that I didn’t know if I was second or third. It doesn’t even matter; a medal is a medal, as we say. It’s something amazing.”
“I started watching the Olympics earlier than cycling, so the Olympic medal really means a lot to me. Ask me in a few years how much it means to me,” Pogačar was enthusiastic about his new extraordinary success.