The Winner of the Tour de France Pulled a Luke Skywalker

Why Tadej Pogačar ditched his power meter for a pivotal climb — and what all cyclists can learn from it.

107th tour de france 2020   stage 20
Tim de WaeleGetty Images

In today's world, it seems we can measure everything. And that capability extends deep into sports and fitness, where smart watches and heart rate monitors are nearly ubiquitous. Which makes the decision newly minted Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar embraced before the pivotal ascent of his Stage 20 time trial so curious: he rolled without a power meter.

Crazy, right? For hardcore cyclists especially, this move may seem akin to insanity. After all, entering the stage, Pogačar was down 57 seconds to fellow Slovenian Primož Roglič. Surely he would want every bit of data available. And yet just a glance at his handlebars reveals a totally clean cockpit.

As reported by Cycling News, Pogačar completed phase one of the stage aboard a custom-designed Colnago K-One time trial bike outfitted with a Stages Dash computer, picking up 36 seconds on Roglič in the process. However, when it came time for the 5.9-kilometer La Planche climb, he hopped on a Colnago V3Rs and, like Luke Skywalker switching off the targeting computer before destroying the Death Star, trusted his feelings. No heart rate monitor, no power meter, just pure pedal-mashing passion.

topshot cycling fra tdf2020 stage20
Anne-Christine PoujoulatGetty Images

Such a move is not unheard of: legendary Swiss cyclist Fabian Cancellara was known to eschew data during major races, but it is certainly unusual. The thinking is that the power meter enables a measured effort, preventing the rider from getting caught up in the emotion of the moment, overexerting and running out of gas before the finish line.

Perhaps Pogačar's youth played a role in him taking a chance on himself. After all, he was just 21 (he turned 22 today), and with many more TDF opportunities ahead of him, the notion of going for broke — to finish first or die trying — wasn't madness at all. Indeed, it was the only way to go.

The risk paid off big time, as Pogačar notched the fastest-ever ascent of the climb, won the stage and claimed the yellow jersey for the Champs-Élysées victory lap yesterday, achieving a couple historic firsts in the process. He's the first Slovenian and the first Colnago rider to win the Tour de France. He's also the second-youngest winner after Henri Cornet, the 1904 Tour champion.

The big takeaway for all of us non-Tour racers, though, has less to do with his specific training regimens or gear. The next time you refuse to saddle up because your phone or bike computer isn't charged — and if it's not on Strava, it didn't happen — consider going out anyway. Forget the numbers, listen to your body, and embrace the pure joy of cycling. You just might rediscover your love of the sport, and be even more fired up the next time you roll out.

(Oh, and if you happen to tip an imaginary glass of champagne as you return to your block, we promise not to judge.)

topshot cycling fra tdf2020 stage21
Christian HartmannGetty Images
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