Tadej Pogačar staged a real cycling show on the first mountain stage, which will be talked about for years to come. The Slovenian cycling ace surprised and destroyed all of his rivals with a powerful solo attack 32 km before the finish line and took possession of the leader’s yellow jersey.
The day before Pogačar’s historic performance, the UAE Team Emirates was under severe pressure. In the longest stage of this year’s Tour de France, a larger group of cyclists managed to escape from the peloton right from the start and many of them were never caught. The UAE Team Emirates riders at the front of the peloton did their best to limit the damage and reduce Tadej’s time gap as much as possible. The final, more than 5-minute time gap between the breakaway riders and the peloton indicated turbulent events in the upcoming two mountain stages.
The long-awaited stage 8, the first mountain stage, more than justified the high expectations. Cold weather, rain and wet roads are the conditions when Slovenian prodigy youngster performs at his best. Although Tadej predicted a defensive run before the start of the stage, the reality was completely different.
After about 100km of cycling in the rain, Tadej noticed that many competitors were struggling a lot in the given conditions and decided to change the initial tactics.
“This morning it wasn’t the plan to attack. I had planned to see how the stage would develop, and then decide how to move. I was doing fine and able to benefit from the rainy conditions that I like, so I decided that I would attack. When there were still three climbs left, I asked the team to work at the front to set up my attack. I started very far from the finish line because I saw that all the opponents were in trouble, and because of the cold weather, I thought it was a good time to go. “
On the penultimate ascent of the day to the Col de Romme, the UAE Team Emirates set the high pace and prepared the ground for the attack of the Slovenian superstar. Tadej launched a strong attack, which was followed only by Richard Carapaz – in eyes of many Tadej Pogačar’s biggest rival on this year’s Tour de France. Shortly afterward, Tadej continued to hammer the pace and eventually dropped Carapaz to go solo and the rest is history. In favorable conditions, Tadej started to climb at a frightening pace and kept increasing his advantage over main GC rivals with every pedal stroke.
Pogačar set a record-breaking mark climbing the Col de with a time of 26:29. He improved the time of the quartet F. Schleck, A. Schlek, Contador, Klöden from the Tour de France in 2009 (26:48) by 19 seconds. He also needed just 21:55 to climb the Col de la Colombiere, seven seconds behind Dan Martin’s 2018 Tour record.
Tadej crossed the finish line in 4th position, however creating huge time gaps into all of his GC rivals. Against Carapaz and the other GC favorites, Tadej gained more than 3 minutes – more precisely 3min20s! That means that the defending champion will go into the yellow jersey after a historic performance.
“What a ride. What a day” were some of the first words from a Stage 8 hero after his epic display of strength. Later on, he also quickly summed up his thoughts:
“Today’s result makes me happy, even more, when I think back to the work my team did in yesterday’s stage. Now we are in the yellow and day after day we will show that we are ready to defend the leadership because we are a very strong team.”