The 21-year-old never thought he was going to win cycling’s biggest prize in his first try. Even on Saturday morning, he didn’t expect to overcome Primož Roglič in the climbing time trial in the Vosges.
“In the morning I was just happy to be in second place, and yeah it was a goal to defend that,” Pogačar said. “Then I had a really good day and it turned out I’m in yellow now. I’m super-happy.”
So is everyone inside his UAE-Emirates team. The Tour squad saw Fabio Aru and Davide Formolo crash out early. Pogačar had the legs to hitch a ride on the Jumbo-Visma train, and pounced when he could to claw back time bonuses after losing time in crosswinds in the first week.
When the Tour started three weeks ago in Nice, only a few were counting him as a podium contender. His teammates and support staff knew better.
“I was never thinking of the yellow jersey because it’s the biggest race, but the team had a lot of confidence in me,” Pogačar said. “The team was prepared. They knew we could do it, they believed in me.”
Pogačar’s dizzying rise in the peloton sees him landing on the Tour’s top podium step faster than just about anyone expected. He won the Tour de l’Avenir in 2018, and blasted through his rookie season, capped by third at the Vuelta a España and three stage wins in 2019.
On Sunday, it will be Pogačar, not Roglič, who becomes Slovenia’s first Tour winner.
“I’m just a kid from Slovenia. I have two sisters, one brother — I don’t know what to say,” he said during a press conference. “I like to have fun, I like to enjoy life, the little things. So this press conference is too big for me. I don’t know what to say about me actually.”