Tadej Pogacar emerged above the clouds over the Col du Portet in the Pyrenees on Wednesday to win the 17th stage of the Tour de France to expand his lead and his two closest persecutors, Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz, after an epic battle. The Ecuadorian Carapaz made a tough attack 1.5 km from the 2,200-meter peak, but Pogacar was a formidable champion, making it an iconic moment in his career. He won the tough stage with the yellow jersey of the leader already on his back.
After throwing the pitch in the 5th time trial of the stage, the Slovenian got his second victory in this Tour, extending his stunning Dane Vingegaard 5min to 39 seconds.
The discreet Carapaz climbed to third in four seconds after Rigoberto Uran fell on the last mountain slope. The Colombian slipped to fourth at 7min 17s.
“It was the most difficult stage of the tour, and I dedicate that victory to the team that worked so hard for me here,” Pogacar said.
“This tour didn’t end until the final lap of the Champs-Elysees,” he said when asked if he thought his title defense was now sealed.
On the national holiday of Bastille Day in France, there was almost a Slovenian climb on the last climb, with the French and Basque hats being thrown healthy on the huge crowds on the slopes.
Storm Bastille Day
French fans had a lot of smiles at the home of the FDJ David Gaudu, who finished fourth at the finish line above the clouds in a remote corner of a French bear.
The adult climber Gaudu headed for the stage wearing a French tri-color helmet.
Another French AG2R team saw that it was their Australian podium and Ben O’Connor finished fifth as he rounded out the top five of the day at the Tignes ski resort after winning the Alpine stage.
AG2R chief Vincent Lavenu told AFP that the stage had been a tough climb in the last 36 parts “has been a race for second place and half of the Pretenders will go down here”.
It was so, but the man from Carapaz Ineos, who appeared to be fighting after the trio left the Pretender 8km from home, continued to fight in his late but sterile blast.
Vingegaard was unknown before attacking the elite clique on Mont Ventoux last week.
Since then the shy Jumbo man from the remote region of North Jutland in Denmark has appeared as a serious pretense of a podium.
With his team of four riders, he admitted on Wednesday that “the intention was just to follow through”.
He said he was the second to climb the Col du Portet alive and said he was “calm, happy and proud” and explained that his family was at the finish line.
The chief had warm words for the man in the tail.
“He’s fantastic, a high-level cyclist,” said Pogacar, who, like Vingegaard, is in the second Tour de France.
“I like to play against him. He’s a very good guy and he could win the Tour de France soon,” Pogacar said.
The riders expect a final destination on the mountain on Thursday, before Saturday’s decisive time trial and Sunday’s parade in Paris.
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