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Tour de France

Tour de France: Ineos in damage limitation mode as Pogačar and Vingegaard turn Mende into their playground

'I think that we expected that sort of gap on that sort of climb,' Ellingworth tells VeloNews.

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MENDE, France (VN) — The Coté de la Croix Neuve proved the perfect launchpad for Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard to stretch their legs at the Tour de France and distance the rest of the GC group.

The short but brutal climb, with consistent pitches in double figures saw Pogacar try and expose any weakness he could in the yellow jersey, and while that failed to materialize the damage done to the rest of the race was plain for all to see.

Ineos Grenadiers quickly lost Tom Pidcock on the climb but Adam Yates and Geraint Thomas were quick to respond when Rafal Majka looked to set up his UAE team leader.

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Thomas and Yates would eventually concede ground, and by the time Thomas had reached the line he had shipped 17 seconds to the flyaway pair of Pogacar and Vingegaard. Yates would lose a further five seconds but gain nine on Romain Bardet.

Thomas remains in third overall, now at 2:43, while Yates sits in fifth at 4:06.

“I think that we expected that sort of gap on that sort of climb. They are just so suited to that sort of ascent. I think the time gap was about 17 and it is what it is,” Rod Ellingworth told VeloNews at the summit of the climb as Thomas and Yates warmed down.

The climb suits Pogacar and Vingegaard too. I think that Adam, without any issues and prior to this race, would have been able to stay with them on that climb. For Geraint, that was always going to be a bit of a challenge on that climb but I think that they coped with it pretty well.”

According to Ellingworth, there is still no hierarchy within the Ineos camp but it was clear that as soon as Thomas began to struggle Yates came to his aid and began to set the pace for his more experienced teammate. The Pyrenees are still to come but it’s also fair to say that Ineos’ leadership could yet be decided by one bad day.

“Adam did alright and he’s getting better with each day. They’re just racing, as we set out from the beginning and letting the road play out,” Ellingworth said when asked about the team’s leadership.

“The ambiance in the group is really good and they’re looking out for each other. I think that Adam was happy to take things up there for Geraint on that climb and then maybe another day it will be the other way around. They rode well together.”

As for Pidcock, the Alpe d’Huez winner lost a place on GC and dropped to ninth overall. This has still been a dream race for the young allrounder and as soon as he got off his bike he made straight for Thomas as the Welshman warmed down. The pair congratulated each other on their respective rides and then it was straight into race debrief mode as Ellingworth looked on from the sidelines alongside VeloNews.

“He lost a bit of time,” Ellingworth said without any concern or worry.

“He hardly slept the night he won that stage, maybe two or three hours. I think so. This is all part of it for Tom, having the experience and the ups and downs. He seems alright.”