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Race of the year: Tour de France stage 20

VeloNews 2020 Awards: No one saw Tadej Pogačar's white-hot, come-from-behind time trial coming.

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Nobody saw it coming, but maybe we should have all along.

Heading into the penultimate stage of the 2020 Tour de France — a 36.2km individual time trial that finished up La Planche des Belles Filles — the smart money was on Primož Roglič to keep his yellow jersey. The Slovenian ace had looked bulletproof through three weeks of racing, warding off attacks from his top rivals. Adding to Roglič’s veneer of invincibility was his Jumbo-Visma team, which bossed the peloton like the old Team Sky of Chris Froome.

Just one rider dared challenge Roglič and Jumbo-Visma during the Tour: Slovenian Tadej Pogačar. Pogačar attacked with gusto in the Pyrenees and Massif Central, hoovering up two stage wins and vaulting into second place overall. Then, Pogačar lost steam in the Alps, ceding time on the summit finish to the Col de la Loze on stage 17.

With Pogačar facing a one-minute deficit and nursing tired legs, the stage was set for pro cycling to coronate Roglič as its new king.

And then, the race was abruptly turned on its head along those 36 kilometers in northeastern France.

Pogačar leapt from the starting gate and sped into the route’s rolling first half, pushing a massive gear on his TT bicycle. His UAE-Team Emirates directors had removed his computer and power meter, to allow him to ride by feel and not numbers. By the course’s midpoint it was obvious that Pogačar felt great. Roglič, meanwhile, looked uncomfortable and awkward, shifting his position on his bike and pushing a slow cadence. Pogačar held a sizable gap at the base of the climb, where he jumped onto a road bike for the ascent.

Roglič also executed a bike change, but he looked out of sorts on the climb, his usual snappy high-cadence pedal stroke replaced by a jerky and slow one. By the summit, the race clock displayed a shocking verdict in the solo test of strength. Pogačar had beaten Roglič by nearly two minutes, and grabbed the yellow jersey by a wide margin.

For decades, cycling fans have repeated the tale of Greg LeMond, who took the yellow jersey from Laurent Fignon by eight seconds in the final time trial of the 1989 Tour. The current generation got its version of this incredible tale on stage 20 of the Tour de France. While Pogačar’s margin of victory was greater, the seemingly impossible nature of his feat carried the same weight as LeMond’s win from so many years ago. Nobody saw the Pogačar upset coming — even though we probably should have.