Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) has confirmed his status as Tour de France leader Primož Roglič’s biggest threat as he outpowered his compatriot to the line on stage 15 to claim his second Tour stage win on Sunday.
Pogačar outpowered Roglič in a last-second dash for the line, snatching a 10-second time bonus and cutting Roglič’s overall advantage to 40 seconds.
The 21-year-old’s latest victory both confirms he remains in top climbing condition as the Tour ends its second week and means that after Egan Bernal’s spectacular time loss, the UAE Team Emirates leader has replaced the Ineos Grenadiers leader as Roglič’s main challenger.
He must also be cursing his 81 seconds time loss in the echelons stage into Lavaur nine days ago.
Rather than trying a long-distance move as he did in the first Pyrenean stage, Pogačar said that he was all but obliged to wait for the last possible moment to go for the win given Jumbo-Visma’s significant strength throughout the stage.
But he also insisted that having taken two stages and closed the gap on Roglič, he was going to try for yellow in the third week.
“That’s the plan,” he told reporters afterwards. “The perfect scenario would be to take it on the evening of the final time trial but we live in a real world, and if there’s a chance to take it I will try.”
Pogačar admitted that he was a “little bit surprised” at the extent of his current success, because, as he said, “I never saw myself winning two stages in the Tour, particularly in the first year of my Tour. But I guess this is real so I’m happy about it.”
He was also surprised, he recognised, at the way that Ineos Grenadiers bid to take the Tour had collapsed in such spectacular style. “I don’t know what happened to Egan,” he admitted, “but Jumbo set a really hard pace and some riders paid for it.”
Pogačar was adamant that if, however, he takes yellow before next Saturday his squad would be able to handle the challenge, despite their losing both Fabio Aru and Davide Formolo and with David de La Cruz injured to boot.
“It’s really difficult when so many riders have a hard time,” he claimed, “but we still have some strong guys. It would be an honour to wear yellow and I think we could defend it.”
He warned though, that even if his third week in the Vuelta a España was an exceptionally good one, there was no guarantee that he would repeat that kind of consistency in the Tour de France.
“I don’t know what to expect after the rest day,” he argued. “This is the Tour, I’ve prepared well but we have to see what could happen. I could explode, or i could go really well. I need to race conservatively and see how my legs feel in the final week.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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