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BRIANÇON, France (VN) – Jonas Vingegaard was a man with a plan on the roads to the Col du Granon on Wednesday.
Jumbo-Visma unfurled a tactical triumph deep in the Alps that was finished with lazer-guided precision by Vingegaard as the Danish dynamo sank a boot into Tadej Pogačar’s unprotected flank and seized the yellow jersey of the Tour de France.
It was an all-or-nothing, do-or-die maneuver that delivered the 2021 Tour runner-up a huge 2:16 lead on GC and exploded the seemingly impenetrable Pogačar.
“It was nice last year to be second in the Tour. But also, I think if we didn’t try something, probably I would be second again. So then I would rather try something and grab out for the victory, which we did today,” Vingegaard said shortly after he pulled on his new yellow jersey.
A monster attack deep in the final five kilometers of the Granon summit left Pogačar swinging from the ropes in a way never seen before by the once bullet-proof defending champion.
Vingegaard rampaged clear while his rival’s head dropped and jersey came unzipped in a stunning show of rare vulnerability.
“I didn’t know if he was suffering or how it was. But the team told me on the radio that it would be steep with 5k to go, and I was thinking either they make it hard, or I try to attack. And that’s what I did,” Vingegaard said.
“So I wanted to attack and luckily, I could attack and in the end I got a gap on him. And I’m obviously super, super, happy and proud of it.”
Vingegaard-Roglič deliver the one-two
UAE Emirates was down to to six after COVID pierced its bubble and teams sensed a weakness on the first of two consecutive mountain stages Wednesday. Jumbo-Visma duly rolled out an eight-man wrecking train in a tactical coup that crushed defending champion Pogačar.
“We had a plan that we wanted to make the race hard today, and the harder the race is the bigger the gaps will be in the end,” Vingegaard said. “I think that was to my advantage.”
Primož Roglič pressured Pogačar over the Télégraphe and on the relentless ride to the Galibier’s mighty summit. The elder Slovenian rode himself to a standstill for his younger teammate and apprentice in a selfless ride as superdomestique.
“We wanted to attack from far, we wanted to try with Primož. It shows what a big rider Primož is that he really went in for the plan and really fought for it. He went deep so we could challenge Tadej,” Vingegaard explained.
Jumbo-Visma clustered around its GC leader all day long as Roglič played wingman, Wout van Aert dropped back from an early break, and Sepp Kuss and Tiesj Benoot helped encircle the yellow jersey.
It was a masterpiece that put the Dutch team firmly in control of the Tour’s yellow jersey it’s come so close to twice before.
“The first plan was to have someone in the break to have a satellite rider. The next plan was for me and Primož to challenge Tadej on the Télégraphe and Galibier, and we succeeded,” Vingegaard said. “In the end I was still feeling good and luckily I was able to win the stage.”
Echoes of eighty six
The Granon rarely shows its ruthless slopes at the Tour, but when it does it makes it count.
Greg LeMond cracked Bernard Hinault when the race last went there in 1986 in one of the most historic stages in recent memory.
The American legend prized the yellow jersey from the sharp claws of his teammate “The Badger” for good when he rode to third behind stage winner Eduardo Chozas.
Hinault and LeMond went on to cross the line hand-in-hand the next day when the Tour took the peloton to the top of the Alpe d’Huez, and though the Frenchman scored the stage he never saw yellow again. It was the beginning of the end of Hinault’s crushing reign on the maillot jaune.
No matter how the stage to Alpe d’Huez plays out Thursday, Vingegaard and Pogačar won’t likely be hand-in-hand when they get to the top of the 21 bends.
“I expect that Pogačar will try to attack me every day when he has the chance,” Vingegaard said. “So so for sure. It will be a hard race from now on and until Paris, but we’ll just do our best every day.”
Pogačar went deep when he crumbled out of yellow Wednesday, and like when Hinault cracked in ’86, no one knows if or when he’ll rally from a hammer blow that lost him almost three minutes.
For now, Vingegaard will relish every moment he has in the maillot.
Right from when I started cycling, I couldn’t even dream of winning a stage and being in the yellow jersey. So this is really incredible for me. Even if I should lose it again, I would still be super, super proud of being the wearer of the yellow jersey in the Tour de France,” Vingegaard said.
“I mean, it’s the biggest race of the world. And now I’m the GC leader. Yeah. It’s hard for me to put words.”