Everything seemed to be going right for Jumbo-Visma in the Tour de France until Saturday evening; the team won three stages and led the race for 11 days, with Primož Roglič going into the stage 20 time trial - his speciality - with almost a minute's lead over his compatriot Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).
Roglič's teammates Wout van Aert and then Tom Dumoulin set the fastest times on the 36.2km course that undulated before pitching up to the summit of La Planche des Belles Filles. But after Roglič went down the start ramp it became increasingly clear that his race was going off the rails and he lost ground on Pogacar on the flats and up the climb.
Van Aert, who'd put in a spectacular performances in service of his Slovenian team leader and finished fourth in the time trial, couldn't hide his disappointment that the team would not be bringing home the overall Tour de France victory.
"It is very difficult to give this up at the last minute," a dejected Van Aert told NOS.nl. "We are very disappointed. Everything went perfectly, actually, we worked very hard for it and there was nothing to indicate that it would go wrong today."
The side-by-side comparison of Roglič and Pogačar on the television split screen was stark: Pogačar, after switching seamlessly from his time trial to climbing bike, looked fluid and powerful as he flew up the final climb. Roglič looked stiff, his usual metronomic pedal stroke unsteady as he climbed out of the saddle then sat back down.
"It hurt my eyes how Primož got more and more into difficulty," Van Aert said. "It didn't look as smooth as usual, he missed that cadence.
"And before the start, it all looked so good. But it is a combination of Pogačar that rode really fantastic while Primož did not reach his normal level that ensures this result. We went all out every day. We gave everything and did everything perfectly. We were ready to celebrate, so to speak."
Tom Dumoulin, second to Pogačar in the time trial, was stunned at how fast the UAE Team Emirates rider went up the final ascent.
"What can I say? It happened. I don't know how Pogacar climbed a minute faster than I did," Dumoulin said. "We hadn't taken this into account, this is quite a blow. The Tour win slips from our hands. I rode well again, but that doesn't matter anymore.
"Pogacar was too strong today. He was at a completely different level than we were. Primoz felt good, he knew he had to put down a good time trial. He hasn't ridden his best, but it certainly wasn't bad either. We expected it to be enough."
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