2020 Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) was one of several riders caught in the second high-speed crash in the final kilometres of stage 3. He lost 26 seconds to Julian Alaphilippe, (Deceuninck-QuickStep) Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Enric Mas (Movistar) and Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe), but finished in the same time as most of his other general classification rivals. He slipped to sixth but kept his overall hopes alive, while some of his rivals were left in pain and unsure if they could race on.
Pogačar led home a group of riders with UAE Team Emirates teammates Mikkel Bjerg, Davide Formolo and Vegard Stake Laengen, who helped limit the time loss after the high-speed crash on a blind and narrow corner with four kilometres to race.
Compared to fellow Slovenian Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), who crashed hard five kilometres earlier and lost 1:21 when he crossed the line, Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), who crashed early in the stage and dislocated his shoulder, and also Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), who crashed out of the race, Pogačar could count himself fortunate.
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He slipped from third to six in the overall classification and is now 31 seconds down on Alaphilippe and another eight seconds behind Carapaz. However, he kept the best young rider’s white jersey, and importantly, is still in the battle for overall victory in this year’s Tour de France.
Sportingly, Pogačar was more concerned about his fellow riders than his time loss.
“It wasn’t a nice day out there; we saw too many crashes again and it was really hectic,” he said briefly post-stage, then trying to explain what happened to Slovenian television.
“I don't even know what happened. The roads were narrow and potholed, it was really chaotic. A teammate fell in front of me. I caught myself and managed to go around everyone lying on the ground in front of me. It was awful, like on the battlefield. Afterwards we tried to get back, but there were some gaps.
“When I crossed the line I didn’t know how much time I had lost or if I had kept the white jersey. I heard some of my rivals crashed and lost time, but it’s not what we want to see.”
As the defending champion and an overall contender this year, Pogačar is one of the leaders of the peloton and will have to represent his teammates and other riders if a decision is taken to hold some form of protest about dangerous roads and rider safety.
Concerned about his fellow riders, Pogačar hoped the chaos and crashes would end soon. “I hope everyone that went down is OK,” he said.
“These first days have been really stressful and we hope it calms down soon.”
Tuesday’s stage 4 from Redon to Fougeres is expected to see another sprint finish and nervous final as the overall contenders and their teammates try to stay safe. Fortunately the finish is much simpler on much wider roads.
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