Less than a week after shining in the high mountain passes of the Pyrenees in the Tour de France, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) showed that he is more than a match for the Massif Central mountain range as well, as he lit up the race in impressive style on the steep, punchy ascent of Puy de Mary on stage 13.
The winner of three stages in his Grand Tour debut in the Vuelta a España last year on climbs as far afield and as diverse as those of Andorra, the much steeper ascents of Cantabria and the grinding, long climbs in the western Sierras of Avila, Pogacar’s devastating ability to accelerate away on all kinds of different ascents was once again in evidence on Friday.
Only race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) could follow his young compatriot’s surging charge off the front two kilometres from the line, and the Slovenians proceeded to open a gap of 38 seconds on key rival Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers).
Pogacar has soared up the general classification as a result, moving from seventh to second overall, and he is also back in the white jersey of best young rider ahead of Bernal.
The key question further down the line is whether he can take on Roglic as well. But whatever happens, the UAE Team Emirates racer is making an even more stunning debut at the Tour than he did in the Vuelta last year.
“I gained time on everyone except Roglic, so I’m really happy,” Pogacar said afterwards. “It was a tough battle, but when I saw the climb, I knew what was coming, so I tried to attack.
“I saw Roglic was the only guy who could follow me, so I said, ‘come on, we go,’ and we just rode together to the top, full gas. I think it was quite a good day.”
It was clear on this occasion that both Slovenians had a lot to gain by collaborating together, but Pogacar dismissed the idea that their unspoken alliance will automatically endure all the way to Paris.
“In the last two kilometres I don’t think we were friends,” he said. “For sure there’ll be more attacking and more rivalry in the next week.”
That said, at Puy Mary, Roglic looked marginally stronger than Pogacar on the climb or at the very least, surer of his strength, given that the younger man barely took a turn after the yellow jersey had come across. Instead, Pogacar was content to shadow Roglic all the way to the line, where they took 12th and 13th place on the stage, just over 6 minutes behind winner and earlier escapee Dani Martínez (EF Pro Cycling), and 13 seconds ahead of closest chaser Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo).
It remains to be seen if Pogacar will be able to turn on a similarly strong display of climbing power on the longer and higher Col du Grand Colombier next Sunday, and whether Roglic will continue to be able to match him. In any case, his attack on Puy Mary broke open the Tour – another one could net him yellow.
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