It’s obviously not as important as yellow, but Tadej Pogačar couldn’t hide his delight at also all-but securing a second successive polka dot jersey at the Tour de France.
In similar fashion to the 2020 edition when the young Slovenian climbed to the top of the mountain classification on the penultimate day of racing, the UAE-Team Emirates man hasn’t been in contention for the polka dots in this year’s race until the final few days.
An enjoyable battle for the minor classification has mostly been contested by Wout Poels, Michael Woods and at times Nairo Quintana, but Pogačar’s succession of victories looks almost certain to deny Poels an appearance on the podium in Paris.
Speaking after his win on Luz Ardiden, the 22-year-old beamed: “It’s really something crazy to be on the podium at the Tour and to take polka.
“It’s one of the nicest jerseys. Last year I wore it for one day and would love to ride in this jersey every day with all of the fans.
“The fans are crazy for the polka dot jersey so it’s super-nice to get it.
“We never thought about it because yellow is always priority but what we did is a big bonus.”
His boyish looks and blonde hair peeking out the top of his helmet have become a trademark look for Pogačar, and throughout his defence of the Tour he has been spotted smiling even on the toughest of climbs.
“It’s exactly how I felt,” he said when asked if he enjoyed stage 18. “I think that’s the point of sport: to have fun, to enjoy what you’re doing.
“My coaches and my sports directors always tell me to be calm and that it’s just a game.
“Sometimes you win or lose, but they always remind me to have fun.
“I am really lucky on this team. Even if I had a bad race, I still have fun. After a bad day always comes a good day.
“Today I really enjoyed racing even though it was really tough.”