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This year’s runner-up even attacked on the Champs Élysées and, for once, was not shadowed by his arch-rival Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) who sat back in the peloton with overall victory safely wrapped up.
It was a rare defeat for Pogačar who arrived at the grand départ in Copenhagen as the two-time defending champion just beginning his supposedly long reign over the peloton, and who has never arrived in Paris without the yellow jersey.
“[It feels] a little bit different but not too much, I’m still really happy to be here,” he told reporters after the finish.
“I was really proud with my three other teammates, we were riding strong and it was not bad at all because I was enjoying a lot today.”
Although his team collapsed around him — depleted by illnesses suffered by George Bennett, Vegard Stake Laengen and Marc Soler as well as an injury to Rafal Majka — Pogačar did not concede the yellow jersey easily, launching offenses in the Pyrenees in an attempt to dislodge Vingegaard.
Their rivalry was such that they were often off the front in a race of their own, occasionally accompanied by Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Brandon McNulty or Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
With Pogačar still only 23, and Vingegaard just two years older, it is a rivalry that could shape the Tour for years to come.
“I think we are going to have a really great next couple of years in front of the television,” the Slovenian said. “I will for sure enjoy these years on the bike because I love the challenge.”
#TDF2022 Final podium!
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) July 24, 2022
After his second-placed finish at the Tour, Pogačar’s goals for the rest of the season are not quite settled yet. The Vuelta a España was originally on his schedule, but on Sunday, Pogačar was relishing the moment.
“I’m so caught up in the moment, I just don’t know what I will do in four days time,” he said. “For three days I know what I do but then I don’t really know what to expect.
“For sure, we are going to have a nice night but tomorrow I’m already on stage 2 of the Tour de France Femmes to support my fiancée.”
Pogačar’s fiancée Urška Žigart races for Team BikeExchange-Jayco and was selected for the inaugural Tour de France Femmes.
“Tomorrow I cheer her on then I need to go home and set up some telecom stuff. This is life, normal life.”