Pogacar wins Pyrenees big stage, Vingegaard claims Tour de France yellow jersey
CAUTERETS-CAMBASQUE, France — Tadej Pogacar was not done yet.
Just 24 hours after losing more than a minute to his biggest rival at the Tour de France — defending champion Jonas Vingegaard — Pogacar showed he was not ready to give up, and revived the suspense at cycling’s biggest race.
Two-time champion Pogacar, who was dethroned by Vingegaard last summer, claimed a 10th career stage win on Thursday after a stunning counterattack that dropped the reigning champion in the finale of the second and last stage in the Pyrenees.
“I would not say revenge, but it’s good to win today and take back some time,” Pogacar said after an epic day of racing in thin air. “I feel a little bit of relief and feel much better now.”
Vingegaard crossed the finish line 24 seconds behind Pogacar following their pulsating duel and seized the yellow jersey, 25 seconds ahead of his Slovenian rival.
“I would say it’s almost perfect the gap, and it’s going to be a big, big battle until the last stage,” Pogacar said.
INCREDIBLE SCENES 😲
— Eurosport (@eurosport) July 6, 2023
Overnight leader Jai Hindley dropped to third place overall, 1 minute, 34 seconds off the pace.
The brutal 145-kilometer (90-mile) Stage 6 with a mountaintop finish from the southwestern city of Tarbes to the Plateau of Cambasque featured three tough climbs including the legendary Col du Tourmalet.
It was on the steepest part of the famed mountain pass, in thin air, that Vingegaard, riding behind a small group of breakaway riders, started the battle.
After his Jumbo-Visma teammates asphyxiated competition with a frenetic pace that made most of the other contenders crack, Vingegaard launched a sharp attack about 1.5 kilometers from the summit. Pogacar was the only one able to follow.
“The display Jonas showed yesterday was incredible and I was thinking when they started pulling on the Tourmalet, ‘If it’s going to happen like yesterday we can pack our bags and go home,’” Pogacar said. “Luckily I had good legs today and could follow on the Tourmalet quite comfortably.”
Vingegaard’s teammate, Wout van Aert, who was part of the early breakaway and rode furiously throughout the day, waited for his leader in the downhill as a group of eight riders gathered at the front before the final grind with some steep sections with an 11% gradient.
The tireless Van Aert accelerated again with five kilometers left to set up Vingegaard’s second attack of the day, with Pogacar and Michal Kwiatkowski taking his wheel.
The Polish rider was quickly dropped and the duelists were on their own for the last three kilometers of the stage, spurred on by the vociferous cries of buoyant fans lining up the road and lighting flares. Pogacar then placed his explosive counterattack with 2.6 kilometers left and never looked back.
Pogacar was in a class of his own earlier this year, triumphing nearly everywhere he showed up. Following his wins at the Amstel Gold Race and Fleche Wallonne, he aimed for a hat trick of the Ardennes one-day classics when he suddenly found himself down on the ground, forced to abandon Liege–Bastogne–Liege because of a crash that left him with a broken wrist requiring surgery.
Before the accident two months ago, Pogacar had been untouchable on all sorts of terrain, also dominating the field at the Tour of Flanders and the weeklong Paris-Nice. But his injury hampered his preparations for the Tour.
Friday’s 170-kilometer (106-mile) stage from Mont-de-Marsan to Bordeaux is mainly flat and should offer some relief to the main contenders, with sprinters expected to fight for the win.