Tadej Pogacar controlled his rivals and extended his lead in the Tour de France overall standings as the final podium took shape in a grueling 17th mountain stage won by the defending champion on Wednesday. The Slovenian edged out Dane Jonas Vingegaard and Ecuador Richard Carapaz atop the Portet Pass (16km at 8.7%) to claim his first mountain stage victory on this year’s Tour after being the first attacking in the final climb.
He is now ahead of Vingegaard by five minutes and 39 seconds with Carapaz in third place, four seconds more while the Colombian Rigobrto Uran slipped to fourth place, at 7:17 of the pace, after having cracked in the mist of the Col du Portet. Pogacar set off 8.4 km from the summit of the Pyrenean pass and only Vingegaard, Carapaz and Uran were able to follow initially. A second acceleration was fatal for Uran, who will need a spectacular comeback in Thursday’s 18th stage at Luz Ardiden, the last mountain effort of the Tour.
Barring a major meltdown on Thursday, Pogacar looks set to retain his title and although he wasn’t as dominant as he was in the Alps, the 22-year-old never looked too bothered in what was seen as the most difficult step. “Last week we worked a lot, the team was always in front to control the race. Today, with a small breakaway, we saw an opportunity to aim for the stage victory,” said Pogacar, who reduced also the gap with the Dutchman Wout Poels in the mountain classification.
“I’m really happy to win the most difficult climb of the Tour. My teammates gave everything and I owed them well. Winning with the yellow jersey on my shoulders is something I cannot describe. we did it today, we can try again but we’ll see. “
Carapaz was in the wheels of Pogacar and Vingegaard on the steep climb ending at 2,215 meters and despite the appearance of pain, the 2019 Giro d’Italia champion attacked 1.4 km from the summit. Pogacar, who had looked annoyed with Carapaz’s attitude, followed while Vingegaard was dropped, only for the Dane to fall back with the line in sight.
Pogacar then sped away and couldn’t be called, concluding a solid victory before falling back on exhaustion. On Bastille Day, Frenchman David Gaudu clinched an honorable fourth place, 1:19 off the pace.
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