By Julien Pretot
RONCHAMP, France (Reuters) - Primoz Roglic was at a loss to explain his meltdown after he surrendered the Tour de France overall lead in the final time trial to fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar on Saturday.
The 30-year-old was the overwhelming favourite for the title going into the 36.2-km solo effort against the clock between Lure and La Planche des Belles Filles but nothing went to plan.
Roglic started the day with a 57-second lead in the general classification but lost time to Pogacar on the flat section and imploded on the 5.9-km climb at an average gradient of 8.5%.
His compatriot claimed a monumental victory in the time trial to finish 59 seconds ahead going into Sunday's final stage, the traditional procession into Paris where only the final sprint on the Champs Elysees is contested.
Roglic's face turned white and his new yellow time trial helmet looked too small as his sweaty hair stuck out, almost giving an air of embarrassment to the whole scene.
“I had not the best day and Tadej was just a lot, a lot better, in a different world,” Roglic told a news conference.
“Tadej deserves the win, congratulations to him. I just gave everything I had. For sure I’m disappointed about the result but on the other side I can be proud of that second place.”
The Vuelta champion, who was backed for three weeks by the most formidable team on the Tour, apologised to his Jumbo-Visma team mates for not delivering.
“I feel sorry for the guys and everyone but I didn’t do it on purpose. Still I am really proud of them for their performances during the whole race.”
Roglic might regret not racing more aggressively, notably not trying to follow Pogacar when the debutant attacked on the Col de Peyresourde in the Pyrenees in the opening block of racing.
“For sure there is a big analysis to make but for the moment I don’t have a clear head and it’s hard to think. But like I said it’s better to be second than third,” the 30-year-old said.
His dramatic loss echoed that of Frenchman Laurent Fignon, who lost the Tour de France to American Greg LeMond by eight seconds in 1989 after starting the final time trial with a 50-second lead.
“I couldn't help but think of Laurent Fignon,” said Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.
“I'd like to say to Roglic that we become stronger when we've lived through disappointments like that. But, at the same time, Fignon never won the Tour again after 1989."
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)