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Tour leader Tadej Pogačar outraces rivals for Pyrenees stage win

Tadej Pogačar said it was going to be the hardest day of the Tour de France.

He made it look easy.

The race leader finished ahead of his rivals and took a major step toward defending his title with a perfectly executed 17th-stage win in the Pyrenees on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old Pogačar made his move with 8.5 kilometres to go on Col de Portet when he powered past previous leader Anthony Perez on his way to victory at 2,215 metres above sea level — the highest stage finish this year.

Jonas Vingegaard stayed on Pogačar’s wheel, with Richard Carapaz close behind but Rigoberto Uran, who was previously second in the general classification, was unable to keep pace and dropped back to fourth overall.

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Australia’s Ben O’Connor, who came fifth in the stage on Wednesday, remains fifth overall.

David Gaudu gave chase to keep alive hopes of a French win on Bastille Day.

Pogačar didn’t look concerned, however, as he settled into a three-way fight for the line, roared on by noisy roadside fans on the cloud-kissed mountain.

Tadej Pogačar’s rivals could not get past him on the Col du Portet, but the Slovenian rider was exhausted after the mountain-top finish. (

AP/Pool: Tim van Wichele

)

Carapaz attacked with 1.4 kilometres to go. Pogačar followed and Vingegaard appeared to be dropped. But Vingegaard fought back and Pogačar accelerated when he needed to win the sprint. Carapaz finished third.

It was Pogačar’s first stage win since claiming the yellow jersey on the eighth stage.

The defending champion stretched his lead in the GC to 5 minutes, 39 seconds over Vingegaard, with Carapaz a further four seconds behind.

Pogačar joked Tuesday that he wished he hadn’t cycled Wednesday’s route in advance as it would be better not to know what was to come.

“I know the road, but you need the legs to climb it,” the Slovenian rider said before the start of the unforgiving 178.4-kilometre route.

It ended with three major obstacles in a row — the 1,569-metre Col de Peyresourde, then the 1,580-metre Col de Val Louron-Azet, before the hardest, to the top of Col du Portet.

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There were several skirmishes at the head of the peloton before Perez, Lukas Postlberger, Danny van Poppel and Dorian Godon carved a narrow lead on the flat route before the mountains. They were joined by Anthony Turgis and Maxime Chevalier.

Steven Kruijswijk dropped out after nearly an hour of cycling. The Jumbo-Visma team said Kruijswijk felt ill during the rest day on Monday and that his condition hadn’t improved.

It left the team with just four riders — Vingegaard, Wout van Aert, Sepp Kuss and Mike Teunissen.

The six breakaways stretched their lead to eight minutes after 60 kilometres and maintained a good advantage as they approached Col de Peyresourde. Turgis was first to the summit.

Turgis, Perez and Godon dropped Postlberger, Chevalier and van Poppel on the climb to Col de Val Louron-Azet, and Perez made his move 5.5 kilometres before the summit, which he reached 10 seconds before the chasing Godon.

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Godon hit a top speed of 83.6kph on the downhill to catch Perez with 22 kilometres to go. Turgis was just over a minute behind, while Pogačar and the peloton remained just under four minutes off the pace.

Perez made another break with 13.5 kilometres to go, while many riders were struggling on the steep 16-kilometre climb up Col de Portet.

The strain was evident on Perez’s face as he remained on his own with 9.2 kilometres remaining.

Pello Bilbao led the yellow-jersey group with Pogačar ever closer. Once Pogačar made his move, there was only going to be one winner.

Thursday will be the last day in the mountains before the riders can look forward to easier rides on the way to Sunday’s finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The 18th stage from Pau features another mountaintop finish at Luz Ardiden after a long climb up the formidable 2,115-metre Col de Tourmalet.

AP


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