Tour de France: Pogacar takes final mountain stage at Luz Ardiden

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Cyclingnews.com 15 July, 2021 - 10:24am 13 views

Who won today's stage in the Tour de France?

On Tuesday, Patrick Konrad won his first ever Tour de France stage with a brilliant solo effort. Tadej Pogacar retained his yellow jersey over Rigoberto Uran by 5'18" in the overall Tour de France classification. MARCA.comTour de France 2021 Stage 17, LIVE: Pogacar wins, final results and classification

Vingegaard, Carapaz hold on to podium positions

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) won his second straight mountain top finish at the Tour de France on stage 18 to Luz Ardiden with another utterly dominant performance in the Pyrenees.

The yellow jersey stamped his authority on the race once again, finishing ahead of Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo Visma) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers).

The Slovenian made it look easy, once again, skipping up to two accelerations from Enric Mas (Movistar), who had dared to attack on the final climb and cause something of a mini-upset. The second attack from Mas with just under 1km remaining was closed by Pogačar with 400m to go and he used that momentum to kick again. Carapaz tried in vain to bring the race leader back but he was unable to match the pace set by a rider who has looked head and shoulders above everyone in this year’s Tour de France.

At the line, a still fresh looking Pogačar had time to look back at his two main rivals, before basking in his success once a again.

The win puts Pogačar a massive 5:45 clear of Vingegaard with just three stages remaining, and with Carapaz a further six seconds adrift. By winning the stage Pogačar also sealed the win in the king of the mountains competition, meaning that he is likely to arrive in Paris to celebrate classification victories in yellow, white and polka-dot jerseys.

While Pogačar made his way to the podium for the third stage win in this year’s race there was only heartbreak for Rigoberto Urán, who was dropped on the Col du Tourmalet. The Colombian came into the stage with his podium hopes hanging by a thread after he cracked on stage 17 but any dreams of a second time inside the top three in Paris were brutally dismantled by a combination of Ineos and UAE who controlled much of the stage. Uran would eventually finish almost nine minutes down and is now in 10th place overall.

The battle for the stage however truly ignited with around 5.5km to go on the last climb when Rafał Majka took over and began to drive the pace for his teammate and race leader. The acceleration in pace, just like we had seen before from the UAE rider on stage 17 reduced the front group to around a dozen riders with Wout van Aert, Alexey Lutsenko and David Gaudu quickly distanced as a result.

Pogačar attacked first with 3.2km to go and was joined by Carpaz, Vingegaard, Sepp Kuss, and Enric Mas and it was Jumbo-Visma who set the pace with Kuss sitting on the front until about 1.1km to go. When the pace slowed and Mas attacked it looked as though the Spaniard would be able to escape and thus save his team’s race but Pogačar had other ideas.

"It was super hard," Pogačar said. "Already on the Tourmalet it was a pace where you just sit on the wheel and forget about everything, and and just focus. The last climb, it was the maximum."

Stage 18 of the Tour de France began in an all too familiar frame in Pau, with the French police authorities confirming that they had visited the Bahrain Victorious hotel during the previous night with a raid that lasted well into the small hours of Thursday morning. 

The news overshadowed the start of the final mountain stage of this year’s race with riders forced to answer questions from the media about the raid and what it meant for a Bahrain Victorious team that had already won two stages and was leading both the team and mountains classification. 

It was hardly surprising to see Wout Poels and Matej Mohoric – both from Bahrain Victorious, take out their frustration on the race with the pair of riders among the early attackers after the rollout towards the high Pyrenees. The squad had been forced to hand over phones and laptops, their bus and rooms searched, yet any lack of sleep was put to one side with Mohoric eventually kicking clear with Chris Juul Jensen and Sean Bennett. 

Only Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis) were able to mount a counter-attack, and with just under 100km to go of the short stage, the two groups merged to form five leaders on the road. Their advantage remained slim, at just under two minutes, with Juul Jensen forced to drop back due to team orders.

On the fourth category Côte de Loucrup after 55km, the leaders held a gap of 1:22. With an intermediate sprint coming up just after the climb at Pouzac, it was Team BikeExchange that lifted the pace in order to try and drop Mark Cavendish and help Michael Matthews close the gap in the green jersey competition. That aim fell short when Cavendish survived the onslaught and then outsprinted Matthews to increase his points lead but the action sparked a run of attacks with Dan Martin, Kenny Elissonde, Jasper Stuyven, Edward Theuns and Davide Ballerini the first wave of riders to push clear. 

That move failed but Pierre Rolland and Juul Jensen kicked ahead just as Alaphilippe and Mohoric dropped Bennett and Pierre-Luc Périchon with 58km to go.

Valentin Madouas, Pierre Latour, Kenny Elissonde and Pierre Rolland created a dangerous move with 50km to go as the race climbed the lower slopes of the Col du Tourmalet. UAE Team Emirates took up the chase but an even more threatening move escaped next with David Gaudu, Ion Izaguirre, and Ruben Guerreiro, Omer Fraile, all going on the offensive roughly halfway up the legendary climb, with around 45km to go on the stage. 

Seven kilometres from the summit, the Gaudu and Madouas groups merged but with only 40 seconds covering most of the race the fight for the stage win lay wide open. 

Ineos Grenadier's high pace caused problems for several riders, including Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) and the British team’s very own Richie Porte, who were both dropped. 

With six kilometres to go on the climb Alaphilippe and Mohoric were reeled in by the Gaudu break but with the peloton at just 26 seconds the chance for any break contesting the stage win looked slim as Dylan Van Baarle ground out a pace that reduced the peloton to about 30 riders. Soon after Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo), fourth overall at the start of the stage, was forced to let go of his rivals with 37km remaining on the stage. 

At the same time Gaudu went for broke, perhaps knowing that taking on Pogacar and company on the final climb would be futile. He accelerated with Alaphilippe, Guerreiro, and Latour for company. The world champion cracked four kilometres from the summit as Gaudu plowed on – his lead to the yellow jersey holding at around 40 seconds.

Guerreiro was distanced by Latour and Gaudu one kilometre from the summit of the Tourmalet as Poels and Michael Woods ignited their battle in the king of the mountains competition. The Bahrain Victorious rider extended his lead in the competition when Woods was forced to sit up, as Gaudu, second on the climb to Latour, distanced his breakaway companion on the breathtaking descent.

After diving down the spectacular descent of the Tourmlalet to the foot of Luz Ardiden, lone leader Gaudu held a slender 17 seconds on the Ineos fronted peloton with a group containing Uran 1:52 behind the front of the race. 

At that point Pogacar still had three teammates by his side, as Michal Kwiatkowski took over at the front of the race with Gaudu 17 seconds clear with 10km to climb.

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Will Anyone Try To Take Down Tadej Pogacar?

FloBikes 15 July, 2021 - 12:25pm

Cycling-Pogacar staying alert despite comfortable lead

WHBL News 15 July, 2021 - 12:25pm

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SAINT-LARY SOULAN, France (Reuters) – Tadej Pogacar is edging closer to winning a second consecutive Tour de France title, but the Slovenian insists it is not over yet with one more mountain stage and a time trial left.

The 22-year-old last year stunned compatriot Primoz Roglic in the final time trial, on the eve of the Champs Elysees parade.

This time he enjoys a comfortable lead after winning Wednesday’s 17th stage at the Col du Portet, controlling his rivals on a brutal ascent in the Pyrenees.

“This climb is a neverending story,” he said of the Col du Portet, a 16-km effort at an average gradient of 8.7%.

“It’s bad roads in the last eight kilometres, it’s super hard, in altitude. I felt good, it was a nice test. I did enjoy the climb even though it was one of the hardest in this Tour.”

Pogacar now leads Dane Jonas Vingegaard by five minutes 39 seconds, a massive advantage four days before the final stage, a largely processional ride to Paris.

There were times when the Team UAE rider had a smile on his face even when the battle with Vingegaard and Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz, was raging on.

“Sometimes when I suffer I have an expression on my face that’s like a smile,” he said.

“It’s maybe also that the camera focused on me when I passed my girlfriend and my family with five kilometres to go. But it’s true that I felt pure joy on the bike and today I really enjoyed the race.”

Behind the smile, Pogacar is staying focused, especially in a Tour that was marred by countless crashes in the first week.

“The Tour is over on the Champs Elysees, when you pass the finish line in the last lap,” he said.

“In cycling you can have a lot of bad luck. Touching wood. For now my shape is good, I can’t wait for tomorrow for the last super hard day. Then we’ll see. I don’t like to think about it (the title).”

Thursday’s 18th stage is another mountain ride with a summit finish in Luz Ardiden, before a sprint stage on Friday and the final individual time trial on Saturday.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)

Child's play Pogacar dominates on Tour de France mountain again - France 24

FRANCE 24 15 July, 2021 - 11:44am

Overall leader Tadej Pogacar again proved his dominance on the Tour de France as he won a second consecutive mountain stage in the Pyrenees on Thursday and said "it's a game for me."

On a short final mountain stage of 130km Pogacar out-ran his two closest rivals, Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz, just as he did on the previous day's mountaintop finale.

The 2020 champion continued the most dominant run in recent Tour memory, by climbing the post-race stage four times; as stage winner, as best young rider, as best climber and as the runaway overall leader.

The peloton left Pau under a shadow Thursday after an overnight anti-doping raid on the Bahrain-Victorious team at their hotel.

"Its something strange, maybe just one more control to see nobody's hiding anything," said Pogacar of UAE. "We only found out in the morning, I don't know what to think," he said of the raid.

But by the time an Ineos quartet were leading the remnants of the pack up the final climb of this Tour de France, the focus was on the possible challenges to the leader on the road.

"It was full gas racing today, Ineos were pressing from deep," the leader said of what was likely Carapaz's last chance to unseat him.

With 3km left Pogacar, Vingegaard and Carapaz were left to cross swords in a pulsating uphill battle to a finish line above the clouds at the ski resort of Luz Ardiden with hundreds of thousands of fans along the roadside and cycling-loving French president Emmanuel Macron in the director's car at the head of the action.

The struggle was quickly settled.

Pogacar raced ahead with ease over the last kilometre and slowed down to take a look over his shoulder as he crossed the line for his third stage win on this edition.

"I felt good and I'm really happy with the win. It's a game for me, I'm enjoying playing it," said the 22-year-old who has dominated in the mountains and on the all important time-trials, just as Spaniard Alberto Contador and Briton Chris Froome did in their time.

- Pogacar enjoying new era -

But Pogacar was adamant he was not on the cusp of greatness.

"This is not the Pogacar era, but for sure a new generation is here," he said.

"It's important to have fun and enjoy what you are doing, some you win some you lose but always have fun, my coach says" Pogacar said smiling and looking relaxed.

"Tomorrow I aim to enjoy every minute of the flat run," he said of Friday's stage.

He did admit worries about the final challenge, a 30km time-trial.

"You can lose six minutes over 30km like that," he said.

Pogacar pulverised the opposition on the first time-trial which he won on stage five.

Pogacar leads the Dane Vingegaard by almost six minutes with Carapaz right on the Jumbo man's tail in third with three stages left, a flat run Friday, the time-trial and Sunday's parade into Paris.

Vingegaard is on paper a better time-trialist than Carapaz, but with only a few seconds between the pair it is too early to call a top three.

Whatever happens in Paris, the events in Pau on Thursday may take longer to run their course, after French police said the Hotel raid affair was in its preliminary stages.

"A preliminary inquiry has been opened to see if there has been, or not, acquisition, transport or possession of banned substances," the Marseille-based police unit dealing with public health matters overseeing the matter told AFP.

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