A day in which Tadej Pogačar proved to be human as he ceded the yellow jersey for the first time in the Tour de France, soundly beaten by Jumbo-Visma’s Jonas Vingegaard as the Dutch team launched an all-out assault and cracked the defending champion, who lost nearly three minutes on the day and now sits in third overall, two and a half minutes down.
The race is far from over and as soon as tomorrow we could see a reverse in fortunes. Pogačar isn’t sure if his collapse on the Col du Granon was a hunger knock and instead he praised Jumbo-Visma for taking the race to him. A pat on the leg was given to Vingegaard while the Dane was warming down after the finish line, respect for a worthy competitor.
“I got attacked by Team Jumbo-Visma, they played it well today,” Pogačar said after the stage. “Tactically they did a really good job. In the last climb, it was difficult. But we will see tomorrow, I want revenge. Le Tour is not over!”
“A hunger knock? I don’t know if that’s the explanation for my bad day,” he continued, speaking to French television, asked about what went wrong for him out on the road. “Maybe it was the many attacks. I ate on the way.”
Pogačar was isolated early on the Galibier, his UAE Emirates team absent. They are currently reeling from Covid positives, George Bennett not starting yesterday, Rafal Majka managing to continue despite having Covid, while Marc Hirschi hasn’t been right since Copenhagen.
“They played it really smart throughout it was really hard to control it at the start, who controls the breakaway, because we don’t have many guys anymore,” the Slovenian said. “They played it tactically today and did a super good job, that was it.”
Majka did fight back to give Pogačar some much needed help after the highest point of this year’s race on the Galibier, setting the pace up the climb to the summit finish. But when first Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) and then Romain Bardet (DSM) attacked off the front of the GC group the writing was on the wall, the pace clearly not high enough.
When Vingegaard launched Majka tried to follow but started to gap his team leader, before the Pole cracked leaving Pogačar alone in his chase.
“I don’t know on the Galibier I still felt really good,” Pogačar said, searching for answers. “I got a lot of attacking from Jumbo they were really good today. On the last climb I don’t know, I just didn’t have a good final day, I was suffering towards the end.”
Never before at the Tour have we seen Pogačar ride with his jersey flapping in the wind, clunkily turning the pedals in anguish as the race went up the road without him.
With Alpe d’Huez tomorrow before the a set of tough Pyrenean stages and a stage 20 time trial, the race is far from over.
“Yes, the gap is big, but this duel is not over yet,” Pogačar promised. “I’m in the race until the end, I want to give it everything and to have no regrets.
“I lose today three minutes maybe tomorrow I gain three minutes, I will keep fighting.”