Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) leads a reduced group of GC favourites up the final climb of stage 7 of the 2022 Tour de France.

A rivalry rekindled: Moments that made the final kilometre of stage 7

Pogačar vs Vingegaard vs everybody else. The battle for the 2022 Tour de France is on.

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Tadej Pogačar’s dominance continued as the Tour de France peloton had its first meeting with a mountain. Buzzing from stage 6 success and wearing a box-fresh yellow skin suit, Pogačar snatched stage victory from his arch-rival at the top of la Super Planche des Belles Filles. But it wasn’t easy.

After six hard and fast stages, many of the favourites were clearly carrying some considerable fatigue onto the first Cat.1 climb of the race, but not Pogačar, nor Jonas Vingegaard who pushed him all the way to the line, rejuvenating the intense rivalry that was born last July.

Most of the day’s most decisive action waited until the final gritty kilometre: Pogačar’s delivery, Kämna’s eleventh-hour capture, and Vingegaard’s explosive – and destructive – acceleration.

Kämna was the last survivor from a strong breakaway, but he couldn’t hold off the GC favourites.

1. Pogačar unleashed

With the yellow jersey back – let’s face it – where it belongs, UAE Team Emirates took charge of the race, and after a quiet start to the 2022 Tour, Pogačar’s team did not disappoint on stage 7. With Mikkel Bjerg there to do the work early on, and Vegard Stake Laengen dropping back from the break to help out, they looked very much in control.

The breakaway still had a small advantage at the foot of la Planche des Belles Filles, and there was no reason to trim it too fast as Lennard Kämna went solo in the last five kilometres.

The Ineos Grenadiers had tried their best to apply the pressure on the run-in, but Marc Soler and George Bennett were there for the lower slopes, then Brandon McNulty took over, before giving way to Rafał Majka for the final stretch.

Majka ultimately went pop a little earlier than expected, waving Pogačar through at the base of the ‘Super’ gravel finale.

“I made a little bit of a mistake,” Majka said at the finish. “I didn’t know about the left turn. Before I knew it, I thought the finish is there, but we still got 200 steep [metres] to go.”

“Allez!”

Suddenly without teammates, the yellow jersey tried a testing acceleration before looking back to assess the damage in the group. Were there more hangers-on than he anticipated? He settled back in his saddle and kept his powder dry-ish as the last kilometre wore away.

2. Vingegaard throws down the gauntlet

It was Vingegaard, sitting third overall at the start of the day, who was largely responsible for the action in the final, and for ruining Kämna’s day. 

With Pogačar setting the pace in the GC group, the lone leader kept creeping ever closer to the finish line, daring to dream, but Vingegaard’s attack drew out the yellow jersey, knocking the young German’s hopes into the dust in the process – Kämna was so close to the line that he held on to take fourth.

No one else could follow. Their acceleration was so fierce that the next finisher, Primož Roglič, was a whole 12 seconds slower over less than 100 metres.

3. Plumbing the depths of talent and resolve

After his performance at the 2021 Tour and more recent obvious strength during the Critérium du Dauphiné, Vingegaard’s explosive acceleration should come as no surprise, nor will Pogačar’s ability to overhaul him. 

It wasn’t emphatic though. For the briefest of moments, Pogačar looked heavy on his saddle, swaying a little way off Vingegaard’s wheel on the violent 24% punch near the line…

But then something flared in the 23-year-old Slovenian and he found the few additional watts that he needed to cross the line first. As Pogačar continued pedalling with a slow-motion celebration, Vingegaard stopped dead just over the line, empty.

Roglič led the rest of the GC riders home 12 seconds later, their gaps indicative of the destruction created by Pogačar and Vingegaard in the final kilometre.

Brandon McNulty and George Bennett cross the line as their fearless leader continues his celebrations.

However, though he’ll surely enjoy his back-to-back victories and an eighth Tour stage win, Pogačar will also notice that there’s danger in his wake. Vingegaard is 35 seconds down with his preferred terrain yet to come, and his teammate Roglič demonstrated for the second day running that stage 5 was an unfortunate blip which has hardly dented his form. The older Slovenian took third on the stage and rocketed up to 13th, not necessarily back in the GC picture, but a potentially dangerous foil for Jumbo-Visma.

Geraint Thomas meanwhile now sits third overall at 1:10, the first of no less than four Ineos Grenadiers in the top 10, with Dani Martínez bringing up the rear 1:55 down in 10th. 

If nothing else, the final kilometre of La Super Planche des Belles Filles showed that it’s not necessarily a done deal. Pogačar is with little doubt the strongest rider at the race, but his challengers are stronger than ever.

“It was this close!”

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