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Pogačar Takes Control of the Tour With Blistering Solo Down the Galibier

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

The Pog giveth and the Pog taketh away. One day after “giving” Richard Carapaz (EF Education–EasyPost) the yellow jersey, Tour de France favorite Tadej Pogačar took it back with a blistering 21km solo from the top of the daunting Col de Galibier (22.9km @ 5.1%) and struck the first significant blow in his battle to regain the Tour title.

Aided on the Galibier ascent by his UAE Team Emirates superteam, notably João Almeida and Juan Ayuso, who set a testing pace on the steep slopes of the climb, the 2020 and 2021 yellow jersey winner erupted out of the group of favorites 800m from the summit. When he crested the mountain, he had 7 seconds on his nearest pursuer, defending and two-time Tour champion Jonas Vingegaard (Visma–Lease a Bike). The other co-favorites, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal–Quick Step) and Primož Roglič (Red Bull-BORA-hansgrohe), were farther down the slope.

The 25-year-old Slovenian then used the Galibier descent and the ride to the finish line to put more distance between himself and his rivals. Vingegaard managed to stay within 10 seconds of the leader for much of the descent, but then weakened and was caught by Evenepoel, Roglič and Carlos Rodríguez. The four riders came together with about 3.5km left to ride and trailing Pogačar by 38 seconds, and took off after him, accompanied by a passive Ayuso. But they made no headway.

Pogačar crossed the finish line 35 seconds ahead of Evenepoel, Roglič and Ayuso, with Vingegaard and Rodríguez another 2 seconds behind. With the bonus points, he now leads Evenepoel by 45 seconds, with Vingegaard at 50 seconds. Roglič sits in fifth, already 1:14 adrift. As for Carapaz, he cracked badly on the Galibier and finished a well-beaten 5:10 behind the winner.

“I’m super-happy, this was more or less the plan and we executed it really well,” Pogačar said after the stage. “It was like a dream stage and I finished it off solo. It’s incredible.” He added that the winds lashing the slopes of the Galibier were the deciding factor in his plan of attack.

“I didn’t want to go too early because of the wind and I had to do all the difference in the last few hundred metres. I know the downhill, but I was a little bit surprised to see wet road in the first few corners. So it was a bit scary. But this descent is super-fast and if you know the road also it helps.”

Before the start of the stage, Vingegaard told Eurosport that he expected a big move from his rival today. “It’s still in the first week. This might be the place where I’m the most vulnerable,” he said. “I think we just have to defend here in the first week and then later on we will have a different mindset.”

He is coming back after a horrific crash in the Tour of the Basque Country that put him into the hospital for 12 days and seriously compromised his preparation for the Tour.

He will be somewhat disappointed by his performance, but this was not the killer blow many had expected. There are many big climbs to go, and the 27-year-old Dane has at least a week to ride himself into form and the new mindset. Though it’s still much too early to count them out, Evenepoel and, especially, Roglič need to find their climbing legs. However, I doubt that they brought them to this Tour.

So it’s up to Vingegaard, the best climber in the world when in form, to make a race of the Tour. But it will take a small miracle for him to make a fight of it.

Vingegaard’s teammate Wout van Aert also looked to be well short of his best form. He was dropped twice, the last time on the gentler slopes of the Galibier, and appears not to have fully recovered from the injuries suffered in a late March crash. The question must be asked if, desperate for a good showing after a disastrous year, Visma–Lease a Bike did not rush its superstars prematurely into battle.