Slovenian Tadej Pogacar beat Jonas Vingegaard in the sprint for second place behind 14th stage winner Spain’s Carlos Rodriguez
By Julien Pretot | Photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters
Morzine, France (Reuters) – Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard crossed swords again in their vintage duel on the Tour de France on Saturday as the defending champion gained just one second over the two-time winner at the end of an epic, incident-marred stage.
Slovenian Pogacar beat Vingegaard in the sprint for second place behind 14th stage winner Carlos Rodriguez of Spain but now trails the Dane, who picked up an extra bonus second, by a mere 10 seconds.
Pogacar, who briefly dropped his wiry opponent with a brutal attack in the breathtaking ascent to the Col de Joux Plane (11.6 kilometers at 8.5 percent), almost bumped into a race motorbike as he launched a fierce sprint for bonus seconds at the top before being caught off guard by Vingegaard 300 meters further up.
“It’s pretty hard to drop him,” said Tadej Pogacar at the end of the punishing 152-kilometer trek from Annemasse, and although Jonas Vingegaard gained time, he might feel his team’s investment into the day did not pay off, and almost backfired
The Jumbo Visma leader, whose team had set a devilish pace on the Col de la Ramaz (13.9 kilometers at 7.1 percent), took eight bonus seconds and Pogacar five.
The UAE Emirates rider then got a six-second bonus for second place on the stage while Vingegaard took four.
“It’s pretty hard to drop him,” said Pogacar at the end of the punishing 152-kilometer trek from Annemasse, and although Vingegaard gained time, he might feel his team’s investment into the day did not pay off, and almost backfired.
“Jumbo Visma did a super job, I tried but Jonas was strong enough to come back and eventually I could not drop him but when I draw a line, I felt good all day. We can take a lot of confidence into the next days,” said Pogacar.
The swashbuckling Pogacar was the first to attack, 3.7 kilometers from the top of the Col de Joux Plane, one of the hardest climbs of the French Alps, and opened a five-second gap.
Pogacar looked back repeatedly, hoping to make Vingegaard crack, but each time could see his rival’s impassive, linen-white face as both rode at the same pace on gradients nearing 10 percent.
“I was just doing my own tempo. I didn’t want to explode, I did what I was capable of and thankfully I managed to close the gap,” said Vingegaard.
The defending champion bridged the gap 1.7 kilometers from the summit before Pogacar, a punchier rider than his rival, drew a blank in his sprint attempt, blocked by a photographer’s motorbike, which itself was struggling to fend off a sea of screaming, flag- and arm-waving fans. The race jury was meeting over the incident.
“I lost a bullet here,” said Pogacar.
The 2020 and 2021 Tour winner put pressure on Vingegaard in the tricky descent into Morzine, but the Danish rider took all the risks necessary to stay in his slipstream, as Rodriguez pulled away for his first Tour stage win and to take third place overall, albeit a massive 4:43 off the pace.
Australian Jai Hindley, who cracked on the Col de Joux Plane, dropped to fourth, one second behind rider Rodriguez, who gave Ineos-Grenadiers their second win in two days, and Spain their third in this Tour.
The stage was stopped for almost half an hour shortly after the start because of a massive pile-up that forced five riders to abandon before another two, including Frenchman and former Tour podium finisher Romain Bardet, also crashed out.
Pogacar and Vingegaard will again be looking to land knockout blows on each other on Sunday’s 15th stage, a 179-kilometer ride from Les Gets to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, ending with a seven-kilometer ascent at a 7.7 percent gradient.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond and Hugh Lawson)