Jonas Vingegaard climbed into the Tour de France overall lead in a mountain stage win for the ages on Wednesday as defending champion Tadej Pogacar wilted in the sizzling heat and cracked with the soaring heights. On the day, Dane Vingegaard finished 59 seconds ahead of Colombian climber Nairo Quintana while Frenchman Romain Bardet was third at 1:10 atop the 7900 foot final climb. An exhausted Pogacar looked broken as he crossed the line seventh, 2:51 adrift at the summit of the 9.2 percent, 7 mile ascent of the Col du Granon in the southern Alps. Pogacar had the class to fist-bump Vingegaard at the finish line and was also big enough to face the media immediately.

“Suddenly I didn’t feel well. It wasn’t my day, but I’ll keep fighting,” promised the 2020 and 2021 champion Pogacar who lost two teammates to Covid-19 this week.

Pogacar dropped from first to third at 2:22, after looking fine even half way up the final challenge. Vingegaard now leads Team DSM’s Bardet by 2:16 in the overall standings after he also soared on a tough, baking day. Looking pale himself, Vingegaard expressed surprise at the extent of his triumph.

“Tadej is an enormous rider, the best in the world, he’s won it twice, so to take the yellow off him like this is unthinkable,” said Vingegaard, who hinted Thursday’s proceedings could provide further drama.

“It’s looking good for the upcoming stages, the plan was always to pile on the pressure on these two days,” he added.



‘Amazing’ teammates

It was a first ever Tour stage win for Vingegaard, who finished runner-up in 2021. His teammate Primoz Roglic, a three-time Vuelta a Espana winner, had provided a support in the attacks before he cracked on the last hill. Another Jumbo-Visma man Wout van Aert began the demolition job by setting a swift early pace alongside Alpecin-Fenix’s Mathieu van der Poel, who was forced to abandon the race.

“My team were amazing, above all Primoz, he gave everything, what a generous, amazing guy,” Vingegaard said.

“I can’t get over it,” he added.

The 2018 champion Geraint Thomas and his teammate Adam Yates also overtook Pogacar in the finale.

The Welshman is fourth in the overall standings just four seconds off the Slovenian while Quintana is fifth. Vingegaard began a series of lacerating attacks on Pogacar on the penultimate mountain Col du Galibier. But it was not until the final ascent that he suddenly lost ground.

To witness this epic stage there were camper vans galore, flaming barbecues and countless amateur cyclists who had taken on the legendary ascent in the morning. Often running alongside the riders fans who had been gathering here for days gave the action-packed stage the audience it deserved. While the Alps and the valleys below provided a stunning panorama for a magnificent stage.

Thursday’s stage on France’s July 14 national holiday may provide a similar shake up and is billed as the Tour’s toughest ending on the Alpe d’Huez climb, known for partying fans and champion performances.


RBA/AFP Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency

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