Primoz Roglic’s bid to win the 2021 Tour de France ended with the Slovenian pulling out on Sunday ahead of the first mountain top finish at Tignes in the Alps.
Last year’s runner-up trailed home a colossal 35min adrift of the 2020 champion Tadej Pogacar on Saturday as the toll from a heavy fall on stage 3 eventually scuppered his best intentions of a triumph here.
“It made no sense to continue the way it was going," former ski-jumper Roglic said after a pulsating first week of racing caused major fallout amongst the contenders for victory in the 21-day race.
One sporting director told AFP the kind of fall Roglic suffered takes at least five days to get over due to the shock to the body, with riders awakening stiff as a board for up to a week after such a knock.
Heavily grazed in his fall Monday Roglic gradually dropped down the rankings and after Friday’s wild, high-speed 250km chase he appeared embarrassed as he fell off the pace on the first mountain when the race entered the Alps on Saturday.
Roglic was far from alone in taking a battering over the first week as British rider Geraint Thomas also ended Saturday’s stage 35 minutes behind having embarked from the Atlantic port of Brest last Saturday as a clear challenger for the title.
Conversely, the defending champion Tadej Pogacar thrived as the world’s greatest bike race cut diagonally across France from its western tip in the fortified port in Brittany to the chic ski-resorts along the border with Switzerland.
Mass falls and constant attacking tactics have somewhat reversed the codes on this edition of the Tour, leaving little respite for rest as conservative riding suddenly seems pre-pandemic, as the younger riders assert their will.
To cap matters, the 22-year-old UAE captain pulverised the opposition on Saturday’s run over the Colombieres mountain in the rain, taking the yellow jersey in such ominous form the result looks like a formality despite the remaining 13 stages.
La Montagne, the regional newspaper in the Upper Savoy region famous for Evian water and melted cheese dishes, headlined its front page Sunday with “Pogacar crushes the Tour".
Roglic would be keenly aware of what might happen if he continued here as he was himself pulverised on day 20 of the 2020 Tour as Pogacar produced the sporting upset of the year to knock Roglic off top spot and claim the fabled yellow winners jersey in Paris.
Sunday’s 144km run takes the peloton above the clouds with its 2100m altitude summit finish at Tignes.