LUZ ARDIDEN, France – Tadej Pogacar claimed another landmark victory in the 18th stage of the Tour de France to edge closer to retaining his title as a cloud of doping suspicions hung over the world’s greatest cycling race.
After Pogacar won the final mountain stage of the Tour de France to cement his grip on the race, the young Slovenian had four more climbs to complete.
Unlike the two mammoth ascents he mastered earlier in the day, these ones were small: Pogacar stepped four times atop the podium in the Luz Ardiden ski resort as his rewards for winning the stage and retaining the leader’s yellow jersey, as well as for leading the standings as best climber and best young rider. Just call it total dominance.
Only 24 hours after winning another climbing classic at the Col du Portet, the 22-year-old Pogacar became only the fourth rider in Tour history to win consecutive summit finishes at cycling’s biggest race.
“It´s unbelievable, it´s crazy,” Pogacar said according to AP. “It´s been a game for me since I started (my career) and I´m enjoying playing it.”
The defending champion has indeed been toying with his rivals this summer. He had waited until the penultimate stage to take control of the Tour last year but did it after only five stages this summer with a stunning display in the first time trial. He was untouchable in the Alps – where he seized the yellow jersey – and wrapped up the demolition work in the Pyrenees.
Barring an accident, the UAE Team Emirates rider should be crowned Tour champion for the second straight year when the race ends in Paris on Sunday.
Before Sunday´s processional ride leading to the Champs-Elysees, there is just one difficult stage remaining – a time trial through the Bordelais vineyards scheduled Saturday. Pogacar excels in the race against the clock and won the first time trial of this year´s Tour, beating the pure specialists.
Pogacar has a huge lead of five minutes, 45 seconds over Vingegaard in the general classification. Carapaz is in third place, 5:51 off the pace.
“Still three days, but it looks good,” Pogacar said.