Pogačar: Vingegaard is one of the best climbers in the world, perhaps the best

Two stage wins on the bounce for Pogačar as Vingegaard emerges as most likely challenger.

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While the results sheet reads that Tadej Pogačar took a second consecutive stage win at the 2022 Tour de France, slightly increasing his lead in the yellow jersey, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

As the GC group brought Bora-Hansgrohe’s Lennard Kämna into reach with less than 300 metres, agonising for the German who’d spent the majority of the day in the break, it wasn’t the Slovenian but Jumbo-Visma’s Jonas Vingegaard who finally brought his hopes for a stage win crashing down.

The Dane attacked, using Kämna as a target to chase, and passed him with 100m to go. Pogačar followed but a small gap had been established and maintained. The 24 per cent gradient had little time to level out before the finish line, but as it eased Pogačar drew level and then edged his wheel in front, stealing the stage win at the last gasp.

“This stage was very difficult, especially the last part,” Pogačar said after taking his Tour stage win tally to 8 at the age of 23. For context, at the same age Mark Cavendish had four, Bernard Hinault had three and Eddy Merckx had none.

“Jonas was so strong today. But everyone in the team worked so hard for me, so I had to push until the finish,” Rafał Majka had waved Pogačar through to continue the pace-setting with less than a kilometre to go, only a few of the other GC riders including Primož Roglič, Geraint Thomas, David Gaudu, Adam Yates and Enric Mas able to follow. “And I’ve gained a little more time, which is always good. In the Tour, no gap on the competition is big enough.”

That gap is now 35 seconds to the rider who finished second last year: Jonas Vingegaard. Does Pogačar now consider the Jumbo-Visma man his main rival?

“At the moment Jonas is one of the best climbers in the world, perhaps the best,” was Pogačar’s answer. “He is such a compact rider with a strong team around him. He’s doing really well at the moment. When Jonas passed I was really on the limit. I really had to fight for his wheel, but on this day I had to give everything.”

At the top his family and girlfriend Urška Žigart were waiting, added incentive to finish as quickly as possible. Žigart’s mother died of cancer earlier this year and today Pogačar wore special shoes to commemorate the opening of a cancer research charity in her honour.

“When the course was announced, I made this a big goal,” Pogačar explained. “I feel like I’ve been working towards this for so long. But it was a special day anyway. Urška and my family were there. Today we opened a foundation for the benefit of cancer research. That’s why I wore the special shoes today. I am happy and proud at the same time.”

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