“It’s definitely not over,” Pogačar reassured after stage 16. “Especially if it’s raining tomorrow, I can promise you it’s going to be interesting. Two more really hard stages to come, I think the hardest stage of this Tour [is tomorrow], so anything can happen. Anyone can have a bad day.”
Despite Pogačar’s conviction, the 1:48 gap poses a significant challenge. While Tuesday’s performance was not subpar – Pogačar even pulled over a minute ahead of third-placed Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) – Vingegaard’s was superior.
“I didn’t feel the best in the second part,” he admitted. “I still went really solid, I was feeling the tempo OK. It’s a big gap now. I was hoping for less of a gap, I was hoping to be in yellow today, but that’s how it is today. I hope it’s like Marie Blanque stage, so tomorrow I can have good legs.”
“I was really happy to be 20 seconds in front of Wout van Aert at the first checkpoint and on top of the first climb. I was trying to do well, gaining time on him but losing time to Jonas. I had to limit my losses to the finish, I gave it my all.”
Referencing the Marie Blanque stage alludes to the similar circumstances on stage five this year where Vingegaard gained over a minute on Pogačar. However, the following day Pogačar made a comeback, retrieving 24 seconds. The issue now, however, is that Pogačar requires nearly two minutes to regain the lead from Vingegaard.
“We try to make a plan,” he stated. “It’s not easy to gain 2 minutes, but we will try.”
😮💨A day not for the faint-hearted! Les Saisies and Roselend as appetizers, and the Col de la Loze as judge, jury and executioner of the stage.
😮💨Une journée à ne pas manquer ! Les Saisies et Roselend en amuse-bouche, et la Loze en juge de paix.
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 19, 2023
Stage 17 on Wednesday encompasses over 5,000 m of climbing to Courchevel, including the dauntingly steep Col de la Loze where large time gaps can occur. However, whether Pogačar can gain sufficient time on Vingegaard remains to be seen.
Mauro Gianetti, Pogačar’s team boss, expressed surprise at the day’s results but highlighted that Vingegaard’s exceptional performance outshone Pogačar’s solid run.
“We did not expect such a big gap today,” he confessed. “I think Tadej still did a good time trial, he was second with more than one minute over Van Aert – that is remarkable for such a short time trial. The reality is, Jonas did an extraordinary time trial. It was quite impressive, wasn’t it?
“After the first time check, we saw a 15-second lead. That was positive for Vingegaard, not for us, as we now know what figures riders can hit or not. We didn’t anticipate such a quick start from him; we expected a slower pace, which made things complex.”
Despite this setback, Gianetti emphasized that panic is not an option. He pointed out that while they have encountered the formidable contender in Jonas Vingegaard, their performance in the Tour de France is commendable.
“We approach the situation calmly,” Gianetti added. “We are second and third on the general classification. We are conducting an incredible Tour, striving for a win. We know it’s not over, we know it’s challenging. We are here, ready to seize any opportunities.”
What will happen later today? What do you think?