Historic day this Saturday on the race: the young Slovenian dethrones his compatriot Primoz Roglic for the yellow jersey, on the eve of the arrival in Paris. The transfer of power took place in a curiously icy atmosphere at the board of the Belles Filles, while part of the peloton is delighted with this cruel rebound.
What noise is the passing story making? There was not the slightest breath of air on Saturday at the finish of the Tour de France time trial, to witness history running on two bicycle wheels, the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar (Team Emirates- UAE) who takes the yellow jersey on the eve of the arrival in Paris, between Lure and the Belles Filles board (Haute-Saône). Monumental overthrow, to erect stelae on the side of the road. The din was coming from the TV and radio booths which had melted the heat cables. But a funeral and incredulous tranquility had seized the place.
On the finish line, Pogacar launches his bike at the same time as his body and he seems barely able to stop, only stopping his momentum 50 meters further. The winner was sounded, the spectators sounded, the announcer sounded calling for “Applaud out of respect, because he deserves it”, the other Slovenian Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) who had just lost everything where the Tour usually no longer falters. The speakers said (in a low voice) “Primoz Roglic lost the Tour de France”. As television journalists did in 1989 after the final time trial on the Champs-Elysées: “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Laurent Fignon lost the Tour de France.”
It was later that the noise came. Some runners applauded the images of this incredible feat and its corollary, the fall. It is “the King is dead, long live the King”. But also the cruel joy of seeing an unloved cyclist and his team fail. The Jumbo have taken too much advantage of their strength, sped up far from the arrivals and made many competitors suffer for nothing; they humiliated in the mountains and dictated their law even in the hills, like Friday in Champagnole (Jura), where they had hindered the entire width of the road and prevented attacking the very harmless – for them – Anthony Turgis (Total-Direct Energie). Many runners are happy with this coup: “Better Pogacar.”
The Chopin of the bike
The organizers of the Tour will also swim in the champagne. Their blockbuster knows the perfect twist. Unless Roglic pushes his opponent to make a mistake on Sunday at the Champs-Elysées, on cobblestones that are announced to be soaked, and takes back the 59 seconds he needs to win. The location of the film shot on Saturday is just as perfect: the Belles Filles board, a toponymy to imagine a fairy tale – the beautiful girls turn into snakes and drag the too proud princes into deep waters. The hero of the film? Perfect. At 21, he became the youngest winner of the Tour de France since 1904 and Henry Cornet, winner at 19. A child with pale eyes, blond hair sticking out of the spiky helmet and playing his bike like Chopin on the piano. Another rider on the Tour, keen on equipment, believes he could have taken an even greater lead if he had had a better machine on the flat part of the course. According to our specialist, Pogacar would have lost a second and a half per kilometer.
“I really had an amazing day. I’m super happy, I don’t have the words, declares the young Slovenian. My head is going to explode. In the ascent, I could no longer hear the headset, there was too much noise with the spectators. I never imagined wearing the yellow jersey one day. Roglic rode well the whole race, today it was a bad day, I never would have believed it. He’s a good friend, I know it must be difficult for him. But it’s the race… ” The loser responds in a disappointment as minimalistic as his joy of the last days: “Tadej was having an incredible day. He really deserves his victory. I’m disappointed with the result, but still proud of this second place. In the clock, I knew I was wasting time and time again. I pushed hard, but… I’m going to have to analyze this. ” His Jumbo-Visma teammates marched in turn in front of the TV and radio to testify to their dismay. Three weeks of driving for nothing. Tom Dumoulin: “I had no idea Pogacar would ride a minute faster than me.” Repeated in English and Dutch, translated into mondovision. Spectators take pity on the crestfallen soldiers: “We should leave them alone. We ask them the question only once, and that’s enough. “
200 meters from the finish, the public understood at the last moment what was going on. Women and men try to decipher the stopwatches that run on a giant screen. A supporter, cap with red polka dots, his visor up, shouts: “But Pogacar is really going to eat it!” Another, teasing, calls out to Slovenian fans. Roglic’s parents, who came by motorhome, saw a spectacle of fear before their eyes. Other supporters of their sons, sometimes dressed in Jumbo-Visma swimsuits, had frozen in the middle of the grass that still smelled of morning rain. They hesitated to wave their Slovenian flag since it is indeed a Slovenian who wins, then they stopped and there was sadness above the masks.
Thousands of spectators had climbed on this hill of the Vosges for a funeral ritual, some at night as the local press told it, and they were condemned to return at night too. At noon, there was still a procession of families, friends, of all ages, 5 kilometers before the foot of the board and therefore 11 kilometers before the summit. The spectators were loaded with coolers and even an iron stepladder as if to repaint the ceilings. A local resident rents his parking lot to motorhomes for 10 euros but vehicles have been prohibited from entering since the day before. A bar on the sly: coffee costs 50 cents, tea 1 euro. A fuchsia banner «Jan Ullrich 4 ever» is hung in homage to the very juvenile winner of the 1997 Tour de France, 23 years old at the time, who sank into depression and alcohol. Many did not know they would see a historic milestone. They thought they would cheer Thibaut Pinot, the climber who lives in the village of Mélisey below. “I fish for carp like Pinot, says Antonin, in his twenties, mounted at 8 am with a group of friends. Here, it’s Pinot or nothing. When you are from here, you have to support Thibaut, it is his country. Is there another place on the Tour de France where you can party so much for a French rider? ” He’s joking : “If Pinot played the general, we would have brought down Roglic!”