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Porte: Pogacar has proven he's a level above at the Tour de France

NMES FRANCE JULY 08 Richie Porte of Australia and Team INEOS Grenadiers during the 108th Tour de France 2021 Stage 12 a 1594km stage from SaintPaulTroisChateaux to Nimes LeTour TDF2021 on July 08 2021 in Nmes France Photo by Michael SteeleGetty Images
Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers) at the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

With Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) over five minutes ahead of the field in this year’s Tour de France, his main rivals have the difficult task of prioritizing their goals ahead of the final week.

The Slovenian carries a 5:18 lead over second-placed Rigoberto Urán ahead of stage 16 but less than a minute covers second to sixth with the final two spots on the podium in Paris still up for grabs.

None of the contenders with genuine top-five hopes have publicly thrown in the towel when it comes to the yellow jersey but Ineos Grenadiers, who have Richard Carapaz in fourth at 5:33 have some difficult decisions to make.

They were arguably the most aggressive team on stage 15 and looked to put Pogačar and the rest of their rivals under pressure on the road to Andorra but after the dust settled it was clear that Carapaz couldn't make the distance at altitude.

"We've not had that discussion, but we'll have that later, that's the honest truth," Ineos' Richie Porte told Cyclingnews when he was asked about the team's ambitions for the final week and whether the British squad would ride more for stage wins.

"We've got two stages on Wednesday and Thursday that finish uphill, so we'll look to exploit that. We still think it's possible to put him on the podium. That's the goal," he said of Carapaz.

So far Pogačar has not put a foot wrong in this year's race and but for a slight wobble on the second ascent of Mount Ventoux he has been untouchable in the race so far. Rivals have crashed out or dropped from contention due to injuries, but the UAE leader has been a cut above.

When asked if Ineos would focus their battle on the remaining podium spots rather than yellow, Porte laughed before hinting that yellow was out of reach for everyone bar the current race leader at this point.

"When you've got a guy who is five minutes up and he's shown time and time again that he's at a level above everyone else then it's probably better to just aim for the podium," the Australian said.

"He's not getting caught up in the moment and he's doing a great job. It's not going to be easy, but we have to put him and guys like Jonas Vingegaard under pressure. We tried that on stage 15 but it was to no avail really."

"It's not just Pogačar but the other guys, but when you look at him, and they say he doesn't like the heat, you have to give him full credit because he's all class. Last year he won under different circumstances but here you have to tip your hat to him because he's has dealt with the pressure.

"He's only human, isn't he," Porte said when asked if he thought that Pogačar could still have a bad day in the remaining mountain stages.

"For sure, and you don't wish it anyone but there are different things that can happen but for us, we just need to stick to our game plan. If Carapaz is good enough to take some time out some of the guys, then so be it. We've got some hard stages coming up and a time trial and if someone gets sick we can look to exploit them that way too. At the moment the top five are pretty rock solid."

Generally speaking, this Tour de France has been relentless with riders audible in their assessments when it comes to racing speeds and the general level of competition in this year's Tour de France. The starts have been notably frantic affairs with a lack of control and dozens of riders typically aiming to infiltrate the daily breaks.

"It's been the same for everyone really. The starts of the stages have had no control and it's either crosswinds, uphill starts, or technical descents, so it hasn't felt like a normal Tour. The other day it took about 86km before the break went and normally that's reserved for the final week, but it's been like that for the last two weeks now. There's been no let-up."

Daniel Benson

Editor in Chief - Cyclingnews.