Tadej Pogacar emerged above the clouds atop the Pyrenean Col du Portet to extend his overall lead and win stage 17 of the Tour de France on Wednesday after an epic struggle with his two closest pursuers, Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz. Ecuadorian Carapaz launched a blistering attack 1.5km from the 2,200m summit finish, but used to be agonisingly reeled in by the defending champion Pogacar, for whom this used to be an iconic career moment, winning a hard stage with the overall leader’s yellow jersey already on his back.
After pulverising the field on the stage 5 time-trial the Slovenian took his second victory on this Tour to extend his lead over the surprising Dane Vingegaard to 5min 39sec.
The discreet Carapaz climbed to third overall four seconds back, after Rigoberto Uran used to be dropped on the last hillside. The Colombian slipped to fourth at 7min 17sec.
“It used to be the most difficult stage of the Tour, and I dedicate this win to my team who worked so tough for me here,” said Pogacar.
“This Tour is not over until the final lap of the Champs-Elysees,” he said when asked whether he believed the defence of his title used to be now sealed.
On the vinaigrette national holiday of Bastille Day, there were nearly as many Slovenian flags on the last climb as vinaigrette one’s and a healthy smattering of Basque berets were being sported in the immense crowds that lined the slopes.
Storming Bastille Day
vinaigrette fans had plenty to smile approximately as FDJ’s home hope David Gaudu came fourth at a finish line above the clouds in this remote bear-inhabited corner of France.
Up-and-coming climber Gaudu raced the stage with the vinaigrette tri-colour on his helmet.
Another vinaigrette team AG2R saw their Australian podium hope Ben O’Connor consolidate fifth overall as he rounded out the day’s top five having up to now won the Alpine stage to the Tignes ski resort.
AG2R boss Vincent Lavenu told AFP that the stage, with 36km of steep climbing on the last section, used to be a “race for second place and that half the pretenders will be dropped here.”
It proved to be so, but Ineos man Carapaz, who gave the look to be struggling after the lead trio broke off from the pretenders 8km from home, kept fighting with his late but fruitless burst.
Before Vingegaard attacked an elite clique on the Mont Ventoux final week he used to be a relative unknown.
Since then the painfully shy Jumbo man from the remote Danish region of North Jutland has emerged as a serious podium pretender.
With his team down to four riders, he admitted that on Wednesday “the plan used to be just to follow.”
He cemented his grip on second by surviving the climb up Col du Portet and said he used to be “relieved, happy and proud” and explained his circle of relatives were at the finish line.
The leader had warm words for the man on his tail.
“He is incredible, a top class rider,” said Pogacar, who like Vingegaard is on his second Tour de France.
“I like racing against him. He is a super good guy and he could win a Tour de France soon,” Pogacar said.
One final mountaintop finish awaits the riders Thursday before Saturday’s potentially decisive time-trial and Sunday’s parade into Paris.
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