Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) betrayed signs of weakness for the first time on this Tour de France when he was dropped by Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) near the summit of Mont Ventoux on stage 11.
The yellow jersey responded promptly to Vingegaard’s attack two kilometres from the top of the second of two ascents of Mont Ventoux, but he was unexpectedly distanced 500 metres later. Pogačar crested the summit 37 seconds behind the Dane, and he elected to wait for Richard Carapaz (Ineos) and Rigoberto Uran (EF-Nippo) on the 22km descent to the finish in Malaucène.
That proved a sage decision, as the trio worked together to catch Vingegaard just shy of the flamme rouge. A defiant Pogačar then outsprinted Carapaz, Vingegaard and Uran for 4th on the stage, 1:37 down on stage winner Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
In the overall standings, Pogačar now retains the yellow jersey with a buffer of 5:18 over Uran after Ben O’Connor, previously second overall, lost ground on Mont Ventoux. Vingegaard moves up to third overall at 5:32, while Carapaz lies a further second back in fourth.
“You could see that I was following the first couple of hundred metres but it was just too much,” Pogačar said of Vingegaard’s attack.
“I cracked a little bit and I was dropped. Then I tried to find my pace to the top. It was not super long to the top so I knew I needed just a couple of more minutes and I’d be at the top and then it was just downhill super fast. I was lucky to have also Carapaz and Uran with me and we worked really well together on the descent.”
Although Pogačar showed a rare crack in his armoury atop Mont Ventoux, he expressed satisfaction at how he retrieved the situation and even extended his overall lead. After delivering remarkable performances in miserable conditions in the Alps last weekend, the Slovenian noted that he often struggled in warmer temperatures, and he suggested that the heat had not been to his liking in Provence on Wednesday.
“I can say definitely it was a good day,” Pogačar said. “It was super hot and a super hard day and we saw Ineos wanted to go for the stage win or something. They were going super strong, so it was not an easy day from the beginning to the end.
“It was not that hard a pace on the climb, but it was just under the red zone. When Vingegaard attacked, I went super deep and it was a little bit too much. But in the end, I recovered well. We went super fast downhill with still good power. I’m happy about today, yes.”
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