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Tour de France

Tour de France analysis: Jonas Vingegaard, Jumbo-Visma emerge as main threat to Tadej Pogačar

A pivot to GC-mode after landing two stage wins would hand Jumbo-Visma the team strength and solo sizzle needed to unseat Pogačar.

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The battle for the podium at the Tour de France went on lockdown Sunday.

Tadej Pogačar parried a flurry of attacks from all his nearest rivals on the final climb of the stage, almost effortlessly shutting down threat after threat.

Ineos Grenadiers gave everything it had, while Rigoberto Urán, Jonas Vingegaard, and Ben O’Connor all refused to give up attacking. But try as they might, there was no unsettling Pogačar.

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There’s still no one clear rival behind the defending champ after 15 stages – but that could change as team priorities shift in the final week of the race.

GC standings after stage 15:

  1. Tadej Pogacar: –
  2. Rigoberto Urán: +5:18
  3. Jonas Vingegaard: +5:32
  4. Richard Carapaz: +5:33
  5. Ben O’Connor: +5:58
  6. Wilco Kelderman: +6:16

Pogačar looked invincible in all the one-on-one moves Sunday.

“Today was a really hard day, the last of the second week so we were expecting attacks but Ineos doing a hard pace really soon. I felt good so I was in no worries in the last climb,” he said after the stage, brimming with confidence.

“I just followed the others and it was all ok.”

Team heft may be all the GC pack have left to throw at Pogačar.

Despite UAE-Team Emirates looking confident in controlling the early stages of the race Sunday, the Slovenian was left isolated when Ineos Grenadiers put the hammer down on the penultimate climb of the day.

Two summit finishes in the final week could offer a team with the strength in numbers the final opportunity to grind Pogačar out of the race.

It’s increasingly looking like Richard Carapaz is no match for Pogačar in a mano-a-mano climbing contest. But with Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas, and Jonathan Castroviejo all racing strong in Andorra, the team will be looking to keep its mountain train rolling in the hopes that Pogačar loses his legs.

“We have to believe we can win the race, there are still a lot of things that can happen,” team director Gabriel Rasch said ahead of the stage Sunday. “We have seen riders crack in the past, and I think we definitely still believe in Carapaz and that he’s able to win the Tour. But everything has to go our way though. We’re not giving up.”

Ineos Grenadiers won’t be the only team looking to use numbers to pressure Pogačar on the roads into Paris.

Jumbo-Visma could be set to shift its tactics going into the final week. The team went all-in for stages after the loss of Primož Roglič, leaving Danish sensation Vingegaard to fend for himself through week two.

However, now that Sepp Kuss and Wout van Aert have won what are possibly the two biggest stages of the Tour, the team may be ready to refocus and go all-in with its young GC challenger.

“It’s been hard because we only have five guys,” Kuss said after taking victory in Andorra on Sunday. “We want to go for stages, and we have Jonas who is riding so strong. Today I really wanted to finish the job [by winning the stage]. But from here on out I will be supporting Jonas.”

Jumbo-Visma put three of its riders into the break Sunday, and despite being alone, Vingegaard seemed more than comfortable challenging Pogačar. As he did on the Ventoux, the 24-year-old looked the rider most likely to break Pogačar with his repeat moves on the Beixalos climb.

Adding van Aert and Kuss into Jumbo-Visma’s equation could – just possibly – have dislodged Pogačar in Andorra.

Van Aert has again proven he can do it all at this year’s Tour, while Kuss made the steep final climb look like a false flat Sunday. With top-class teammates around Vingegaard, Jumbo-Visma may have the pieces of the puzzle that Ineos Grenadiers has been looking for – a strong team and a rider able to finish it off.

And what of the rest of the GC pack?

O’Connor and Urán are driving hard for a slot on the podium. They may not have the firepower to attempt to beat Pogačar, but a top-3 is well within their reach. The duo’s repeat attacks Sunday suggest they’ll fight for a top slot all the way through the Pyrénées.

Wilco Kelderman, Alexey Lutsenko, and Enric Mas faded into the shadows Sunday. The threesome was all there when the racing heated up, but looked unlikely to make any impact. Should Pogačar, Vingegaard, or Carapaz make a sledgehammer move in the final week, it’s tough to see these GC outliers in the lead trio’s wheels.

Carapaz, Vingegaard, and the rest are running out of time as Pogačar runs away with the yellow jersey.

But if the 2020 Tour proved anything, it’s that nothing is decided until the final kilometers of the race.

“I don’t think Pogačar is unbreakable, but as Dave [Brailsford] would say: he’s like a bamboo. He bends, but he really snaps (back), so we will see,” Geraint Thomas said Sunday morning.

“But you’ve got to keep faith and confidence. Anyone can have a bad day. He’s been racing hard and aggressively from the start, so you just never know.”

The Tour’s not over until the road reaches Paris.