Jonas Vingegaard drops Pogacar in the final mountain test of the Tour

Quebecois Hugo Houle, who on Tuesday became the first Canadian to win a Tour de France stage since 1988, was the best Canadian in Thursday’s stage in 20th place.

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HAUTACAM, France — Barring an accident, Jonas Vingegaard will likely be wearing the yellow jersey when he finishes the Tour de France in Paris on Sunday.

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Vingegaard responded to a series of attacks from defending champion Tadej Pogacar on Thursday and finally dropped his main rival in the final big mountain stage of this year’s race to increase his overall lead to three minutes and 26 seconds.

With only one major test remaining, a 41km time trial scheduled for Saturday, Denmark’s Jumbo-Visma leader looks all but guaranteed to win his first Tour title after reaching the Hautacam complex on his own.

“It’s unbelievable. This morning I told my girlfriend and daughter that I wanted to win the stage for them. I’m happy and proud that I won for them,” Vingegaard said. “I need to stay focused and keep taking it day by day. I don’t want to talk about winning.” the Tour yet. Let’s talk about it in two days.”

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Pogacar, the two-time defending champion, took all the risks and crashed down the hill while relentlessly trying to isolate Vingegaard. Back on his bike, Pogacar cracked about four kilometers from the finish on the final ascent, his hopes of winning a third successive title all but dashed.

“I went all-in for yellow,” said Pogacar. “I did not give up, I pushed my limits and I am proud of today. The best man won today.”

Vingegaard then went solo to claim a second stage victory following his success on the Col du Granon last week in the Alps on the day he took control of the race. Pogacar crossed the finish line more than a minute behind Vingegaard.

The final big mountain stage of this year’s race got off to a spirited start with countless attacks outside the city of Lourdes.

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The Vingegaard Jumbo-Visma team managed to put the powerful and versatile Belgian Wout Van Aert in the day’s breakaway. By sending the strong off-roader to the front, the mighty Dutch team ensured that he was available later in the stage to lead Vingegaard.

And indeed it was Van Aert who broke Pogacar with his frenetic pace on the final climb. Van Aert completed the stage podium.

Hugo Houle of Sainte-Perpetue, Qué., who on Tuesday became the first Canadian to win a Tour de France stage since 1988, was the top Canadian in Thursday’s stage in 20th place. Tech moved up two spots in the overall standings to 25th overall.

Hugo Houle of Quebec celebrates on the podium after winning stage 16 of the Tour de France cycling race on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Hugo Houle of Quebec celebrates on the podium after winning stage 16 of the Tour de France cycling race on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Photo by Daniel Cole /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ottawa’s Michael Woods, Houle’s teammate who was third on Stage 16, was 43rd on Thursday to move up to 35th overall.

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Saguenay’s Antoine Duchesne, riding for Groupama FDJ, was 45th on Wednesday and 65th overall.

Montreal’s Guillaume Boivin, also from Israel-Premier Tech, was 67th on Thursday and 124th overall.

Previously, Pogacar had asked Brandon McNulty to set a fast pace on the tight, twisty roads leading up the Col de Spandelles, the only unprecedented climb of the 2022 Tour.

Pogacar launched his first attack on that climb. But Vingegaard did not flinch and immediately took the wheel of his rival. The duo were later joined by Vingegaard domestique Sepp Kuss, who moved to the front to guide their leader.

Standing up on his pedals, Pogacar tried in vain to drop Vingegaard with another strong attack closer to the top before Geraint Thomas picked up the pace. Pogacar waited patiently after Vingegaard, then left again with Vingegaard responding as they caught up and dropped Thomas on the grueling climb.

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Pogacar went full throttle down the technical descent and Vingegaard was forced to pedal hard to keep up. The Danish driver had a scare when his rear wheel strayed, but it was Pogacar who made a mistake. He misjudged a curve and fell into the gravel at the side of the road.

“It took me a bit by surprise, there was gravel on the side and I hit the ground, but I’m fine,” said Pogacar.

The accident took place at a moderate speed and the UAE-Emirati rider quickly returned to his bike with a road rash on his left thigh. Vingegaard then waited for Pogacar and both men shook hands before their final showdown on the road to Hautacam.

Thomas, the 2018 Tour champion, finished the stage in fourth place, 2:54 off the pace. The Ineos-Grenadiers leader was third overall, eight minutes behind Vingegaard.

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