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Vingegaard breaks Pogacar to win stage and all but seal Tour de France glory | Tour de France

Tadej Pogacar’s hopes of dethroning Jonas Vingegaard as Tour de France leader were extinguished after the final mountain stage in the Pyrenees, in which the Dane increased his overall lead, with only three stages of this year’s race remaining.

As on the Col du Granon, Pogacar lost contact with Vingegaard halfway up the final climb, after a ferocious turn of pace from his Jumbo-Visma teammate Wout van Aert distanced the Slovenian. Vingegaard rode on to the finish at Hautacam to claim his second mountaintop stage win, while Pogacar came across the finish line over a minute later.

The Tour convoy’s last day in the mountains before it turns and begins the journey north towards Paris brought more stifling heat and plenty of suffering. One of those to suffer most was Pogacar, who finished the stage with ripped shorts after crashing on the descent of the penultimate climb. Once again, the leading duo transcended their peers.

After Chris Froome’s withdrawal before the start due to a positive Covid test, they went head to head on the narrow climb of the Col de Spandelles, the penultimate ascent of the day. Pogacar’s accelerations were matched by Vingegaard’s doggedness, but more drama was to come on the descent. Pogacar, trying to exert even greater pressure, forced the pace and saw the race leader’s back wheel slide out on one bend, but Vingegaard somehow recovered and stayed upright.

“I dropped my chain and I tried to pedal,” the Dane said. “Of course, you don’t have friction so my back wheel slipped and it was a bit of a mistake, but I was able to make it back to Tadej.”

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Tour de France: stage 18 result and GC

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Stage 18 result (Lourdes-Hautacam)

1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den, Jumbo-Visma) 3h 59m 50s
2. Tadej Pogacar (Slo, UAE Team-Emirates) +1:04
3. Wout van Aert (Bel, Jumbo-Visma) +2:10
4. Geraint Thomas (GB, Ineos Grenadiers) +2:54
5. David Gaudu (Fr, Groupama-FDJ) +2:58
6. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz, Astana) +3:09
7. Daniel Martínez (Col, Ineos Grenadiers) st
8. Sepp Kuss (US, Jumbo-Visma) +3:27
9. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus, Bora-Hansgrohe) +4:04
10. Thibaut Pinot (Fr, Groupama-FDJ) +4:09

General classification

  1. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) 71h 53m 34s
  2. Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates) +3m 26s
  3. Geraint Thomas (Ineos) +8m 0s
  4. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) +11m 5s
  5. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) +13m 35s
  6. Louis Meintjes (Intermarché) +13m 43s
  7. Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) +14m 10s
  8. Romain Bardet (DSM) +16m 11s
  9. Aleksey Lutsenko (Astana) +20m 9s
  10. Adam Yates (Ineos) +20m 17s

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Moments later, it was Pogacar’s turn to get it wrong. He overcooked a left-hand bend and ended up sprawled in the gravel at the side of the road. As he got to his feet, Vingegaard dropped his pace and freewheeled down the climb until the defending champion regained his composition. When the double Tour winner drew back alongside, the pair shook hands, in acknowledgment of the Dane’s sportsmanship.

“Of course I waited for him,” Vingegaard said. “Tadej went a bit too quick into one corner and he was out in the ditch and some gravel, then tried to get back on the road and the bike flipped.”

The leaders tackle the Col de Spandelles during the 18th stage
The leaders tackle the Col de Spandelles during the 18th stage. Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

Ahead Van Aert led the final breakaway on to the climb to Hautacam, with Thibaut Pinot and Geraint Thomas’s Ineos Grenadiers teammate Dani Martínez.

But by the time the trio entered the last six kilometres, the Vingegaard-Pogacar express was coming up fast and Van Aert had to forget his personal ambitions and resume support rider duties.

“The Col du Granon stage and today are two really good examples of how strong this team are,” Vingegaard said. “I’m so happy to have such a strong team around me. To have Wout van Aert, the best rider in the world, as a helper, the green jersey. They were all incredibly strong so I have to thank them so many times.”

Lower down the mountain, Thomas was going through the mill once again. In what has been possibly his most accomplished Tour performance, his resilience and guile ensured that he held on to third place overall, despite attempts by both David Gaudu and Nairo Quintana to creep ahead of him.

“I was going through highs and lows today,” the Welshman said. “I felt all right when it was kicking off, just started riding my own pace.

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“The last climb I wanted to stay with them until the steep bit, but I struggled there and had a bit of a bad patch. I came around a bit, once I had changed my bike [after a puncture]. We still have tomorrow with crosswinds all day, because nothing’s straightforward in this race,” he said of Friday’s stage in Cahors. “But I will try and recover and get ready for the time trial.”

Vingegaard now leads Pogacar by almost three and a half minutes. There is one final head to head in Saturday’s individual time trial, before the ceremonial stage in Paris on Sunday afternoon. The Dane may not yet want to talk about it, but barring an unprecedented catastrophe, the race is won.

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