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Tour de France

Pogačar joins elite company of first-time Tour de France winners

Pogačar is first rider since Merckx to win three jerseys in Paris.

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Tadej Pogačar joins an elite club Sunday of riders who won the Tour de France in their debut.

Since World War II, only eight riders had won the Tour in their first try, and all of them became legends in the sport.

Pogačar joins the likes of Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault who won their first Tour. Both went on to win five yellow jerseys. Even Merckx, who was 24 when he won his first Tour after waiting to race the Olympics as an amateur, is impressed.

“Jumbo-Visma was racing at full-speed for three weeks, not letting anything go. They dominated, controlled everything, but they only forgot one guy — this 21-year-old only 50 seconds [sic] away. What an error of judgment,” Merckx told L’Equipe. “They got caught in their own trap.”

Pogačar also becomes the first rider since Merckx to wear three jerseys in Paris. Pogačar will win the yellow jersey, the King of the Mountains jersey for the best climber, and the white jersey of the best young rider in the same edition, while Merckx won the yellow, green points jersey, and polka-dot jersey in 1969.

The last rider to win in their first try was Laurent Fignon in 1983, who won two editions of the Tour during his career also marked by his eight-second loss to Greg LeMond in 1989. Jan Ullrich was second in his first Tour in 1996 behind teammate Bjarne Riis, and LeMond was third in his debut in 1984.

“This is one of the best Tours I’ve ever seen,” LeMond said. “They need to put in a final time trial like this every five years. I didn’t think Pogačar would be able to make up that time. Pogačar, what a talent.”

Pogačar also makes history as the first Slovenian to win the Tour, and the youngest since World War II, at 21. He celebrates his 22nd birthday Monday.

“[Primož] Roglič didn’t lose the Tour, Pogačar won it,” said Bahrain-McLaren’s Mikel Landa. “What he did was something incredible. No one expected that. We’ve seen before he has the guts to do it.”

How many more yellow jerseys will Pogačar win? Of the “first-winner’s” club since World War II, Robic and Koblet one only once. The others won two or more.

Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers will return next year with stronger, more motivated teams. But the 2020 Tour revealed that one superb rider can surpass the strength of an entire team.

Riders who won the Tour de France in their debut:

1903 — Maurice Garin

1904 — Henri Cornet

1905 — Louis Trousselier

1947 — Jean Robic

1949 — Fausto Coppi

1951 — Hugo Koblet

1957 — Jacques Anquetil

1965 — Felice Gimondi

1969 — Eddy Merckx

1978 — Bernard Hinault

1983 — Laurent Fignon

2020 — Tadej Pogačar