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Tour de France: Pogacar outmuscles Vingegaard on stage four to take yellow
Cycling Sport

Tour de France: Pogacar outmuscles Vingegaard on stage four to take yellow

Tadej Pogacar took victory in the first mountain stage of the 2024 Tour de France, from Pinerolo to Valloire, after breaking clear of the defending champion, Jonas Vingegaard, at the summit of the Col du Galibier.

“I wanted to hit hard today,” Pogacar said following the 12th Tour stage win of his career. “This was the plan and we executed it really well.”

The two rivals locked horns in the mountains once more, but this time the UAE Team Emirates leader Pogacar had the upper hand, ­climbing and descending faster than the Dane, to open up a 35-second lead on the high-speed drop to the finish line.

“I didn’t want to go too early because of the wind,” Pogacar said of his attack close to the Galibier’s 2,642‑metre summit. “So I had to make all the difference in the last few hundred metres.”

Downhill or uphill, Pogacar simply has more power than his rivals and on the spiralling descent to Valloire he extended his advantage. “I know the downhill, but I was a little bit surprised to see wet road in the first few corners, so it was a bit scary. But this descent is super-fast and if you know the road also, it helps.”

Whatever work Vingegaard and his Visma Lease-a-bike team may have put in on his descending, ­during his enforced layoff from racing from mid‑April to late June, wasn’t enough.

With bonus seconds, Pogacar now leads the race overall, from Soudal Quick-Step’s Remco Evenepoel, by 45sec, with Vingegaard third overall, 50sec behind, after just four stages.

Vingegaard said: “It’s a shame to lose time but to be honest, when we came into the Tour, we expected to be behind after these first four stages. To only lose time in one of them, I think we can be pretty happy.”

“Most of the time I lost today was in the second part of the downhill where weight matters a bit more,” the Dane said. “Tadej has a bit more gravity. That worked out for him, and I have to accept that.”

To the suggestion that he was already 1-0 behind, Vingegaard responded: “Yes, but we expected to be 3-0 behind, so I think that’s a small victory. We believe in our plan so we will see by the end of the Tour.”

There is a growing sense, however, that Evenepoel has already usurped ­Vingegaard as main challenger to double Tour winner Pogacar, even if he admitted that following the ­Slovenian on the final climb was beyond him. “It was clear that I didn’t have the same speed in my legs as him,” the Belgian said.

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Nor, as it turned out, did ­Vingegaard, who flattered to deceive when following Pogacar’s attack on the stage into Bologna on Sunday. The Dane is still a few percentage points short of his very best, as is his ­faltering Visma Lease-a-bike team who, ­having won all three Grand Tours in 2023, are risking a blank sheet in 2024.

Even in the final sprint to the line in Valloire, Vingegaard looked weary, failing to close the gap to Evenepoel and losing a further two seconds.

Winner of the world time trial title in Scotland last year, Evenepoel is now looking ahead to the Tour’s first time trial, next Friday. “It’s always positive when you finish second behind the best rider in the world,” he said.

For Richard Carapaz, his first experience of racing in the yellow jersey turned sour in the final kilometres of the Galibier, when he definitively lost ground. Carapaz, of EF ­Education Easy Post, finished more than five minutes behind Pogacar, his hopes of a podium finish dashed in just 25km of racing.

It was a bitter disappointment for the Ecuadorian but then for most of the peloton, with the Slovenian on the rampage, it was all downhill. Now Vingegaard and his underpowered teammates have to make sure his Tour campaign does not follow the same trajectory.

Source: theguardian.com