• Country

Vingegaard Shows Old and New Form and Beats Pogačar in a Sprint

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

Game on! By winning Wednesday’s grueling stage 11 of the Tour de France, defending champion Jonas Vingegaard (Visma–Lease a Bike) demonstrated that he has recovered from the grave injuries he suffered on the Tour of the Basque Country in April and looks to be, for now, at least a match for Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).

The Slovenian took off from the bunch with a typical burst of speed with just under 1km left to ride on the Puy Mary Pas de Perol (5.4km @ 8.1%), the climb on which he won his first Tour in 2020 in an  ITT. He had a lead of 7 seconds on Vingegaard when he crested the summit, with Remco Evenepoel (Soudal–Quick Step) and Primož Roglič (Red Bull-BORA-hansgrohe) slightly farther adrift. Pogačar increased his lead to 35 seconds on the descent and kept most of that lead when he started on the next climb, the Col de Pertus (4.4km @ 7.9%).

But then a remarkable thing happened: Vingegaard caught Pogačar near the top of that climb and nearly outsprinted him for the lion’s share of the bonus points available there. The two then rode the final 14.7km together, collegially sharing the work. Then, in the sprint to the finish line, Vingegaard became the first ever rider to defeat the Slovenian in a two-rider sprint and won his first stage of this year’s Tour.

Welcome back, Jonas Vingegaard!

In the first significant mountain stage of this Tour, which offered 4,350m of climbing over the 211km route from Evaux-les-Bains to Le Lioran, the 27-year-old Dane showed that he has the form to achieve what just a month ago seemed impossible, win his third consecutive Tour de France.

A tearful Vingegaard told Eurosport after the stage, “[This win] is very emotional for me. Coming back from the crash, it means a lot. All the things I went through in the last few months, I would never have been able to do this without my family. It means so much to win a stage, especially to win it for my family.”

He went on to say that he wasn’t able to follow his Pogačar when he made his breakaway move. “I just  had to fight. I didn’t think I could catch him, but I kept fighting and brought him back. I would never have thought this a few months ago.”

The race was less successful for the other members of the so-called Big Four. Evenepoel had trouble on the climbs but managed to limit his losses, finishing third, only 25 seconds behind the winner. But it was a disaster for Roglič, who crashed on the final descent and finished 55 seconds adrift. However, because his crash occurred within the final 3km of the stage, he was awarded the same time as Evenepoel.

Pogačar still leads in the race for the yellow jersey, with Evenepoel in second, at 1:06, Vingegaard sitting third, at 1:14 and Roglič now down 2:15. On the evidence of this stage, neither Evenepoel nor Roglič will win this Tour, barring accident or illness for their rivals.

As for the two favorites, one stage does not a Tour de France make. Vingegaard can still feel the effects of the crash and the missed training time in the big mountains. And Pogačar – who expended a lot of energy making his break and then tired – could yet learn a lesson from this mishap and ride a smarter race.

That would be ironic, given what happened in the days before this stage. After Saturday’s gravelly stage 9, Evenepoel incited days of gamesmanship when he accused Vingegaard of not having the guts to race for a win, though he used a much more colorful term. To which the Dane replied, “If I had gone with (Pogačar and Evenepoel) and they had left me behind on that [gravel] sector where I had to let Pogačar ride a bit later, I would have lost the Tour. It wasn’t a lack of [guts]. I just rode smart.”

One would have thought that this would put an end to the sniping. But Pogačar – apparently acting asEvenepoel’s partner in gamesmanship – soon joined the fray, declaring: . “I think [Vingegaard] is a little bit afraid.”

He didn’t leave it at that, however, going on to criticize Vingegaard for riding intelligently. “Intelligent racing or not, it’s nonsense,” Pogačar told ITV cycling on Tuesday, before the start of the stage 10. “Right now I have the yellow jersey. For me, that’s intelligent: having the leader’s jersey, with a good lead. In the Tour de France, racing intelligence is important, but above all you need good legs to win the Tour.”

If I understand this correctly, the usually sensible and affable Slovenian was saying that Vingegaard should ride less intelligently and rely more on his legs. What’s really disturbing about these comments is that Pogačar did damage his well-deserved reputation of being a rider who respects his rivals. It also sounds like he, not Vingegaard, is afraid – and now we know why.

Stage 11 Results:

  1. Jonas Vingegaard (Visma–Lease a Bike)    4:58:00
  2. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)        same time
  3. Remco Evenepoel (Soudal–Quick Step)        0:25
  4. Primož Roglič (Red Bull-BORA-hansgrohe) 0:55
  5. Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek)                             1:47
  6. João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates)             1:49
  7. Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates)                s.t.
  8. Mikel Landa (Red Bull-BORA-hansgrohe)    s.t.
  9. Carlos Rodríguez (INEOS Grenadiers)          1:55
  10. Felix Gall (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale  2:38

GC Standings

  1. Tadej Pogačar  (UAE Team Emirates)       45:00:34
  2. Remco Evenepoel (Soudal–Quick Step)         1:06
  3. Jonas Vingegaard (Visma–Lease a Bike)        1:14
  4. Primož Roglič (Red Bull-BORA-hansgrohe)  2:45
  5. João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates)              4:20
  6. Carlos Rodríguez (INEOS Grenadiers)           4:40
  7. Mikel Landa (Red Bull-BORA-hansgrohe)    5:38
  8. Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates)                6:59
  9. Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates                  7:09
  10. Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek)                           7:36