Tadej Pogacar’s hopes to oust Jonas Wingegaard as Tour de France leader were dashed after the final mountain stage in the Pyrenees saw the Dane increase his overall lead and with only three stages left in this year’s race.
As at the Col du Granon, Pogacar lost contact with Vingegor halfway through the final climb after Jumbo-Visma teammate Wout van Aert abruptly changed pace, pushing the Slovenian away. Wingegaard drove to the finish line at Otakama to take his second mountaintop stage victory, with Pogacar crossing the line more than a minute later.
The last day of the Tour convoy in the mountains before it turned and started north towards Paris brought more suffocating heat and much suffering. One of the hardest hit was Pogacar, who finished the stage in torn shorts after crashing down the penultimate climb. Once again, the leading duo surpassed their peers.
After Chris Froome withdrew before the start due to a positive Covid test, they went head-to-head on the narrow Col de Spandelles, the penultimate climb of the day. Pogacar’s acceleration matched Wingegor’s tenacity, but there was more drama on the way down. Pogacar, trying to apply even more pressure, increased his speed and saw the race leader’s rear wheel slip on one turn, but Wingegaard somehow recovered and remained upright.
“I dropped the chain and tried to pedal,” said the Dane. “Of course you don’t have friction, so my rear wheel slipped and it was a small mistake, but I was able to get back to Tadei.”
Moments later, it was Pogacar’s turn to make a mistake. He overdid the left turn and ended up sprawled on the gravel by the side of the road. Rising to his feet, Wingegaard slowed his pace and began to descend the slope until the defending champion regained his composure. As the two-time Tour winner stepped back side by side, the pair shook hands in recognition of the Dane’s sportsmanship.
“Of course I was waiting for him,” Wingegaard said. “Tadej went into one turn too fast and ended up in a ditch and on gravel, then tried to get back on the road and the bike flipped over.”
Up front, Van Aert led the last breakaway on the climb to Otacamu with Thibaut Pino and Geraint Thomas’ Ineos Grenadiers teammate Dani Martinez.
But by the time the trio had covered the last six kilometers, the Wingegaard-Pogacar Express was fast approaching, and Van Aert had to put aside his personal ambitions and resume his job as an auxiliary driver.
“The Col du Granon and today are two really good examples of how strong this team is,” Wingegaard said. “I am so happy to have such a strong team around me. To have Wut van Aert, the best driver in the world, as an assistant, the green jersey. They were all incredibly strong, which is why I have to thank them so many times.”
Down the slope Thomas passed through the mill again. In what was arguably his most successful performance at the Tour, his tenacity and cunning secured him third place overall despite attempts by David Gaudou and Nyro Quintana to overtake him.
“Today I had ups and downs,” said the Welshman. “I felt good when it all started, I just started riding at my own pace.
“During the last climb, I wanted to stay with them until the steepest section, but there I struggled and I had a bad section. I recovered a little when I changed my bike [after a puncture]. We still have crosswind tomorrow all day because things are not that easy in this race,” he said of Friday’s stage ahead of Cahors. “But I will try to recover and prepare for the time trial.”
Wingegaard is now ahead of Pogacar by almost three and a half minutes. In Saturday’s individual time trial, before the ceremonial stage in Paris on Sunday afternoon, there will be another final meeting. The Dane may not want to talk about it just yet, but other than an unprecedented disaster, the race is won.
#Wingegaard #smashes #Pogacar #win #stage #close #sealing #Tour #France #glory #Tour #France