Eddy Merckx, Pogacar and “an easy Tour de France”

Eddy Merckx, Pogacar and "an easy Tour de France"

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The Tour de France comes to an end. Three weeks later, a mystery is solved that didn’t look like it at the time. Dynasty or surprise, was the dichotomy thrown up. Eventually the schemes were broken. Paris will host Jonas Vingegaard’s coronation. The Dane didn’t even start as the undisputed leader of his team despite finishing second in 2021, with Primoz Roglic as the second part of the bicephaly. but he was responsible for avoiding what seemed inevitable: the third straight win for Tadej Pogacar, that threatened to implant a tyranny of years, indestructible, destined to convert them big boucle into something predictable. The jumbo was a perfect collective device and Jonas timed the Slovenian with the permission of Wout Van Aert, the runner who posted the exact time.

A commendable exercise in strategy, strength and legs which will further strengthen the Dutch squad tasked with promulgating the law of fear throughout the season, but that could also be combined with a less imposing Pogacar, half a step below its highest level. Eddy Merckx himself opened the debate, if he hasn’t already. “I didn’t expect Vingegaard to win but I thought from the start that Pogacar is not as strong as last year. I think the Slovenian prepared less for the Tour de France than in other years. Just being in the Tour of Slovenia… there was a mistake in the preparation. He may have taken it lightly,” he said. the cannibal.

Pogacar started the season with the UAE Tour at the end of February. The first victory in the first part of the course, which continued his winning streak, forever. Then the Slovenian prevailed without a break in the Strade Bianche and reconfirmed his trident in the Tirreno-Adriatico. Milan-San Remo (5th), Through Flanders (10th), Tour de Frandes (4th), Flecha Wallona (12th) … and break. 56 days, almost two months, until the Tour of Slovenia, his special preparation for the major French event. While the jumbo sharpened its claws at the Critérium del Dauphiné, like much of the peloton destined for the Tour, and other big names opted for Switzerland, Pogacar repeated his strategy by showing off at home. Enough? Not for Merckx. “When you’ve won the Tour too easily, you think you can afford anything and that’s a big mistake he made,” says the five-time champion in France and Italy.

A message to your chosen one

A slap on the wrist in an always friendly relationship. Merckx hasn’t hesitated in recent years to point to the Slovenian as his successor in the 21st century, without going any further. Unlike Remco Evenepoel, whom he was always critical of, the Belgian legend hasn’t dismissed comparisons to him Pogi, the little cannibal. “I think the fact that he rides both the classics and the stage tours brings him a little closer to me. It’s also his way of walking. He’s not afraid of attacks, when he wears the yellow jersey on the Tour he attacks. It also attacks in Lombardy. He’s very similar to me in that way,” he affirms. This time the credit went to others (“We had a great Wout van Aert on this Tour, he was really impressive”)… and the race itself. “It’s cycling that I prefer. Riders emerging earlier this year who are still in the Tour de France. It is extraordinary. It’s complete cycling,” he estimates. There’s no debate there.

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