Date: 21. September 2020
Time to read: 3 min
Tadej Pogačar is the first Slovenian cyclist to win the Tour de France with a superb performance. Crossing the finish line as second was Primož Roglič, another Slovenian and throughout the race a favourite to win.
This year's Tour de France was special in many ways. It was primarily marked by the covid-19 epidemic and specific measures consequently applying at every turn. And secondly, the tremendous successes of Slovenian cyclists. Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar are definitely the names you often heard during the race. In the Tour they were joined by Matej Mohorič, Jan Polanc and Luka Mezgec and all of them also enjoyed the support of many Slovenian fans along the way.
Tour de France was all about Slovenia
The success of Slovenian cyclists at the Tour surprised many, but keen cycling watchers already know very well who Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič are. After all, Roglič won the Vuelta last year, while Pogačar came in third. Anyway, Pogačar's victory is in a way a surprise given that his first three-week race was only last year's Vuelta. Roglič and Pogačar dictated the pace of this year's French loop from the fourth stage onwards when Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar won first and second place.
In the first mountain stage, Roglič confidently rode to victory and offered an excellent demonstration of cycling. The second place was won by the young and very talented Tadej Pogačar. Both Slovene aces thus left big cycling names behind and signalled that this year's Tour will be all about Slovenia.
This was also noticed by Lance Armstrong who was impressed by the success of Slovene cyclists. “A great day for Slovenia. I mean, I don't even remember whether I've ever cycled with any Slovenes. I don't even know where Slovenia is,” Armstrong was enthusiastic about both Slovene cyclists.
“They were first and second! A remarkable day for Slovenia! When you think of cycling, you have in mind the big five countries ranked at the top. Slovenia is not among them. These typically include France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, etc. But this time Slovenia is the first and second in the overall standing!” concluded Armstrong.
The 21-year-old rider is a great young hopeful. However, a bike was not his first sports requisite. He first became enamoured with football in Komenda, his home town. He trained football for a few years and – in his own words – displayed quite some talent with the ball. He still likes kicking a ball. He came in contact with cycling through his older brother when he took it up seriously. At the age of nine, he started dry winter training and switched to a bike in spring, and quickly began racing. Already as a boy he became a member of the cycling team. Team UAE saw how good he was and in 2018 they signed a cooperation agreement. He has been at the highest level of world cycling since 2019.
The Slovene cycling ace and the best cyclist in the International Cycling Federation (UCI) Primož Roglič justified his position as favourite to take home the final victory throughout the race. At first, Roglič achieved great success as a ski jumper. In 2006, together with his team mates he jumped to a silver medal at the youth world championship. Together with the other lads he reached one step higher on the podium the very next year when these young Slovenes became youth world champions. He can also boast two victories in the Continental Cup. In March 2007, even after a horrific fall on the Planica Giant, he lost neither his will nor his courage. He continued training, but since he achieved none of the results he was targeting, in 2012 he definitively switched his jumping skis for a bicycle. Since 2016 he has been a member of the Dutch Team Jumbo–Visma, for which he still rides today. Everything else is history.
Slovenians in France
Slovene cyclists at the Tour are also accompanied by a team of Slovene sports journalists. Among them is also Luka Dolar, a journalist of Val 202 on Radio Slovenia, who says that the Tour is definitely different to follow due to the measures in force in this unfortunate year 2020.
“Let me just mention a very limited access to cyclists who are really in a bubble that (thank goodness) doesn’t burst. So it is extremely difficult if not impossible, to be honest, to get interesting stories from the background or to ask cyclists more than two questions, but at the same time this is the only way that, and hopefully this doesn't sound selfish, Slovenes can enjoy this parade of our champions across France. Enjoying the race in France from the front row or from the home couch will help us Slovenes not to keep only bad memories of the year of 2020. Thank you Primož, Tadej, Luka, Jan and Matej!«
Venues of major sporting events and successes of fellow Slovenes often attract loyal fans. It was no different this time since many of them went to France by car or travelled by charter flights after Slovene cyclists Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar had already written three quarters of a great cycling fairy tale. Along the trails of individual stages and in particular in Paris at the finish line, they were awaited by hundreds of Slovenias. It does not come as a surprise since both cyclists sparked a wave of cycling euphoria in their homeland.