Nothing to be done. Ineos Grenadiers outnumbered Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) three to one on the upper reaches of the final climb to Tignes on stage 9 of the Tour de France, but the Slovenian still punched his way clear to gain another half a minute on Richard Carapaz by the finish.
Jonathan Castroviejo and Geraint Thomas had laid down a brisk tempo in the yellow jersey group on the final climb, before Carapaz launched an acceleration with 4km remaining, but nothing, it seems, can trouble Pogačar on this Tour.
Pogačar resisted Carapaz’s effort with apparent ease before responding in kind with an attack of his own. As on the Col de Romme the previous afternoon, Carapaz was simply unable to match the power of the Slovenian, who danced away to take 6th on the stage, 6:02 down on lone winner Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën).
Carapaz appeared the strongest of the riders who battled to limit their losses to Pogačar, crossing the line seventh at 6:34, and at the head of a group containing Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) and Enric Mas (Movistar). In the overall standings, Carapaz moves up to fifth overall, albeit now some 5:33 off Pogačar.
“Today was a very hard day. Firstly it rained from the start of the day and there was one climb after another, up and down all day,” said Carapaz, who suggested that he had attacked to gain time on his podium rivals rather than to seek to discommode the seemingly unassailable overall leader.
“Pogačar is in a different race to ours now. We’re trying to do our own race in our way.”
Although Pogačar is already the overwhelming favourite to carry the yellow jersey to Paris, Carapaz has been the most adventurous of his (increasingly) distant rivals during the opening phase of the Tour, going on the offensive on the road to Le Creusot on Friday, on the Col de Romme on Saturday and once again at Tignes on Sunday.
Those efforts were all repelled by Pogačar, but Carapaz has at least hauled himself to within 18 seconds of a podium spot as the race breaks for its first rest day on Monday.
After Thomas lost 35 minutes on the road to Le Grand-Bornand on Saturday, Carapaz is Ineos’ only remaining option for the general classification. On the evidence to this point, second place appears the summit of Carapaz’s immediate ambitions, even if two weeks still remain.
“Going for the podium is very important and there’s a lot of time ahead,” said Carapaz. “We’re always trying to be positive because who knows what we can find on the way to Paris.”
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