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Bradley Wiggins believes that there are no more gifts in cycling after witnessing Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) win the second of his two Tour de France stages so far on Friday. The 2012 Tour de France winner also thinks that if Pogačar’s sustained dominance continues in the long-term it could lead to an increased level of dislike towards the Slovenian.
The yellow jersey overhauled his closest rival Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) on the line at La Planche des Belles Filles on Friday to extend his lead in the overall standings. On Saturday’s stage 8 the Slovenian added another four seconds to his advantage, and ahead of a crucial mountain stage to Châtel Portes du Soleil, the two-time defending champion leads Vingegaard in the standings by 39 seconds.
Quite why Pogačar would allow Vingegaard to win a mountain stage and take crucial bonus seconds is unclear. Especially when the fight for yellow was still relatively tight and UAE Team Emirates did all the work on the final climb to set up their leader on stage 7.
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“You could see the moment where Pogacar thought, ‘I’m going for this’ and the fight to the line was amazing,” Wiggins said post-stage.
“There’s no gifts in cycling anymore. There was an era, there was a time where the yellow jersey, and it was a gentleman’s agreement that you didn’t sprint for the line and take the stage win. Almost not to be too greedy but cycling has really changed now, and they’ll go for anything.”
Wiggins later said on Eurosport that he feared Pogačar could become unpopular in cycling due to his sustained dominance.
“I’m sort of stuck in the past. Initially when I watched it, it was like ‘argh’,” Wiggins said.
“If he does that now, year after year, people will naturally want to see him get beaten. There will be a dislike to him. So that’s my only worry for him. It’s a natural thing for people who are dominant, who take every little last crumb of success.”