Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) said he was aware that Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) was bluffing on the Col de Portet on stage 17 of the Tour de France, as the pair went clear with Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).
The trio separated themselves from the rest of the GC contenders 7.5km from the summit of the mammoth final climb in the Pyrenees, and things soon became tactical.
Vingegaard, aware that second-placed Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-Nippo) had been dropped, was keen to push the pace, as was Pogačar, despite his huge buffer at the top of the overall standings.
Carapaz, however, sat on the back of the group with a constant grimace. Suspicions that he was suffering waned every time he responded to the others' repeated accelerations, and disappeared when he launched an attack of his own in the final two kilometres.
"The three of us went clear but only me and Jonas worked together. I tried a couple of times to go clear - more time is better - but they were really good today," said Pogačar.
When asked what he said to Vingegaard on the climb, he added: "No secrets, it was nothing much. He said to me he thought Carapaz is bluffing, and I knew it also. It was nothing unusual, this is the tactic in cycling. Then he tried to attack."
While Pogačar had seemed unsettled by the sandbagging presence of Carapaz, the Ecuadorian's tactics, if anything, worked out in his favour. Vingegaard was dropped when the move was made, meaning Pogačar could follow Carapaz as the Ineos rider turned his attentions to putting time into the white jersey of Vingegaard.
In the final metres, as Vingegaard clawed his way back, Pogačar sprinted for the summit on the steep final ramps of the Col de Portet and won convincingly.
"I had to really drive to catch him and just to hold his wheel, it was super hard," Pogačar said of Carapaz's attack.
"In the end I just sprint the last 50 metres and it was enough."
The victory is Pogačar's second of this Tour de France, following the stage 5 time trial, and his fifth in two Tours after his three-stage haul en route to last year's overall title.
However, it was his first in the yellow jersey, with all the others coming in the white of best young rider.
"It was a fantastic day. To win in the yellow is something I cannot describe," he said.
"The team worked really hard every day to defend yellow. Every day was good for the breakaway so every day we couldn't do much, just defend. Today was a good course to manage the breakaway much better and the guys did a fantastic job.
"We were 50-50 – do we go for the stage or defend? In the end everyone felt good, and we tried, we succeeded and I'm super happy."
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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