It was the moment the Ineos Grenadiers had been waiting for. One of their riders had managed to distance Tadej Pogačar on a climb.
They would have assumed it would be Geraint Thomas, the 2018 champion resurgent this Tour de France, but they could have hardly hoped for more when Adam Yates also dropped the yellow jersey towards the top of the Col du Granon.
“I didn’t really expect that,” Geraint Thomas admitted after the stage. “I expected that from Vingegaard, knew he was strong. They were strong weren’t they? That’s what we expected but I didn’t expect Pogačar to crack like he did, but makes this race exciting doesn’t it?
“Tried to just ride a steady sort of pace and let them jump around,” Thomas explained as to how the action kicked off on the Col du Télégraphe when Roglič and Vingegaard started to take the race to Pogačar. “The worst bit was over the Télégraphe really when it was like doing a set of thirty thirties. Sprint, stop, sprint, stop. I let them do most of that themselves and hold back a little. And then there we are, just a solid day. It didn’t all come back together but a group came back together for that final climb and then basically the same thing. Just trying to get to the top as quickly as possible and trying to pace yourself. That’s what I did.”
After Vingegaard had ridden away it was soon just Thomas and Pogačar on the Col du Granon.
“I just had to sort of go, I felt like Pogačar was really starting to slow down at one point but then he was just kind of bluffing a bit to try and make me ride and then it was just a time trial to the top. But yeah fair play to Vingegaard, he was super today.”
Despite dispensing with Pogačar, a new issue has arisen with Jumbo-Visma’s Jonas Vingegaard now in the yellow jersey.
Like Ineos, the Dutch team have been biding their time in Pogačar’s shadow. Waiting, hoping for a crack. That is where the similarities stop. While Jumbo-Visma have taken a two-minute lead, the British team still trail the Slovenian in third place by four seconds. What’s more, they don’t expect Pogačar to lie down.
“I think he’s going to come out fighting tomorrow,” Thomas predicted. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins up Alpe d’Huez. In a way Jumbo will now be controlling it may mean it will be…the start tomorrow won’t be as crazy as we were expecting for a start.
“They’ve got a super strong guy now,” Thomas said of Vingegaard. “He’s got a good advantage over two minutes and like we saw today the Jumbo team was incredible, so yeah I think it’s going to be another solid day tomorrow, I think Pogačar’s going to come out swinging. but yeah hopefully we all pull apart alright and we can play a part as well.”
That final line is telling. Yet with Adam Yates only 40 seconds behind Thomas and Tom Pidcock hanging in there in 11th overall, 11 minutes down after another impressive ride, the British team are hoping they’re playing a cunning game in what everyone will now hope is the most openly fought Tour de France in years.