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There could hardly have been two different images atop the Hautacam following stage 18 of the Tour de France.
As Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) stepped onto the podium to collect the polka-dot jersey of the mountains classification while Simon Geschke (Cofidis) sobbed on the side of the road, distraught at losing it.
Geschke started the day with a 12-point lead in the mountains competition after picking up the jersey at the end of the first week. He had hoped to score enough points before the final ascent of the day to keep the jersey but burnt too many matches trying to get into the break.
In the end, he could do nothing as Vingegaard rode to stage victory on the Hautacam and took the classification lead in the process.
“It was very stressful in the morning, immediately after five kilometers we had a little drag uphill so I was nervous that the break would go there. Then, I thought if it was a big break I should be in it and I spent a lot of energy trying to get into the right break,” Geschke said at the finish. “Other riders also knew I was desperate to get into the break and were also sitting on my wheel a lot.
“The team did a wonderful job of keeping the big group that went clear just before the Aubisque [the first climb of the day -ed] very close, and if I had the legs then I could have bridged to be there, but it was just not meant to be in the end. Now I’m second, which is not too bad also for a guy like me. The polka-dot jersey is for the best climber in the Tour, and I guess the right guy is wearing it now.”
When Geschke was unable to make it across to the big breakaway group, he knew that it was game over for his chances of securing the polka dots for Paris. Vingegaard now has an eight-point lead over Geschke with just three points remaining between stages 19 and 21.
“I knew I had to get points on the Aubisque and that didn’t happen and from there on it was practically impossible to keep the jersey. We were expecting the GC guys to go to the finish today and not a breakaway, so it was pretty much game over on the Aubisque,” he said.
In a cruel twist, Geschke will still have to wear the polka-dot jersey for the remaining three days of the Tour de France as Vingegaard is in yellow and cannot. He’d prefer not to be reminded of missing out on taking it.
“It’s not nice, and if I had the choice, I would go to the start in my normal kit tomorrow but, unfortunately, I still have to wear the jersey until Paris,” Geschke said. “It’s a beautiful jersey and I have been wearing it for the last days, but I am now just the guy that is wearing the jersey and not leading the classification. It’s not the nicest feeling but that’s the Tour.”
Despite the disappointment, Geschke still looks back on his time in the mountains jersey with a smile.
“Oh, it was magnificent. for me, it’s the most distinctive [Tour] jersey that I like the most. For me, the last nine days have been a dream,” he said.