Kevin Reza, Tadej Pogacar Lead Stories of 2020 Tour de France

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The Tour de France, cycling’s biggest event on the calendar, is in the books for 2020 and there was no shortage of storylines. The two biggest narratives were of course the underdog story of Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar and Kevin Reza, who called out racism in the sport.

We start with the tale of Pogacar, whose triumph caught everyone off guard. Those who bet on tour de france just didn’t see him in the mix at all to come anywhere close to taking the crown. Although it is worth noting that many believed the 21-year-old to be among the long shots and/or dark horses to have a strong showing at least.

He came into Paris with some positive momentum, having already made a powerful impact competing at his first Grand Tour event, where he finished third overall at the Vuelta a España in 2019. The second youngest rider to ever win the event, and the only Slovenian to ever do so, the future looks very bright for him indeed. Thibaut Pinot was a popular pick, but he ended up finishing way down in 29th.

Turning to Reza, one of the biggest stories in sport this summer, across just about every league in almost every country, is the movement to try and stamp out racism and social injustice. Soccer, football, basketball, hockey, baseball et al. have all seen athletes stand up and show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Reza said in an interview with Eurosport that he hoped incidents of racist abuse in the sport of cycling would be taken more seriously, but he was not optimistic about progress being made.

“I’m not waiting for a revolt in the peloton because I know there won’t be one,” he said. “It shows that cycling isn’t ready to evolve in that way.”

Tour de France Peloton did eventually come through with a “say no to racism” campaign, and many fellow riders got on board, expressing their support for Reza. The Frenchman positively acknowledged the gesture, as well as the fellow riders who expressed solidarity with him.

“It took the longest uphill run to get the message across. I hadn’t been able to express myself clearly on this subject,” Reza said via a team press release.

“It’s nice to see positive reactions.”

“ASO allows me today to deliver the message by taking the start in the first row.”

“There is still a lot of work to be done. It’s a good start. I hope the movement will continue after the Tour de France. We’ll have to keep going and see what we can do. It’s difficult to talk about it, to be understood – one wrong word and it can be distorted.

“Today I feel capable and free to talk about it.”

“I simply want to. I am thinking about what to do about it and I will try to do it properly with strong guidelines. It’s a relief for me because I wasn’t able to talk about it a few years ago when I was younger.”

He’s absolutely right- there is a ton of work yet to be done. And we’ll see if words and statements become action; if gestures become genuine agents of change.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated, Chicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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