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Tour de France

Tour de France: Pogačar has just two days to crack Vingegaard but Gianetti isn’t pressing the panic button

Vingegaard surfs through the first day in the Pyrenees as UAE Team Emirates lose another rider.

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FOIX, France (VN) – Stage 16 of the Tour de France from Carcassonne to Foix was always going to be the least decisive stage of a trio of days in the Pyrenees. Nevertheless, it represented a chance for Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) to chip into his 2:22 deficit on race leader Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).

True to his word when it came to looking for any chance to drop the Dane, Pogačar attacked twice on the Port de Lers and then once more on the descent for good measure. While his moves certainly split the yellow jersey group they did little to snap the elastic between himself and Vingegaard, who matched every move with what seemed like relative ease.

On the final climb of the Mur de Péguère the Slovenian was shackled by a well-drilled Jumbo-Visma team and was unable or unwilling to put in any further moves. Both Pogačar and Vingegaard crossed the line at the same time in what was a small victory for the Dane, who is now one more day closer to Paris and so far shows no signs of weakness.

Read more: Alberto Contador: Pogačar has to attack Vingegaard every stage if he wants to win the Tour de France

“Tadej tried and in Tadej’s style. He tried in a good moment and Vingegaard replied in a good way and with good power. We tried but it wasn’t enough,” Pogačar’s team boss Mauro Gianetti told VeloNews at the finish in Foix.

On the final climb Pogačar had Rafal Majka drill the pace until the former KoM winner appeared to suffer a mechanical failure. Sepp Kuss then took over for Jumbo-Visma and the GC battle effectively subsided. Pogačar appeared content to follow at that point. Perhaps those early forays on the Port de Lers were simply attempts to test Vingegaard after the rest-day rather than totally committed moves?

“I don’t think that it was the ideal situation to attack on the final climb because it was a long descent, and not steep. With van Aert at the top of the mountain waiting, also if you can drop Vingegaard for a few seconds there’s still a lot of energy to use up in the finale. It wasn’t the ideal situation to do that for just a small advantage or nothing,” Gianetti said.

It’s also been interesting to note that the vast body of Pogačar’s accelerations have all been short, sharp and violent. Nothing long or protracted has been measured out. Gianetti was asked if that was the best approach given that Vingegaard has looked rock solid with whatever Pogačar has thrown at him.

“Vingegaard replies no matter if it’s short or long for the moment. We have to see how we feel and then react. The rider, Tadej, needs to understand his legs first and then the other riders.”

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There are still two days to go in the Pyrenees with the next two days set to define the entire race. Pogačar cannot afford to arrive at the final time trial on Saturday with his deficit still at 2:22. That job became all the more harder with the news that Marc Soler had missed the time cut, leaving UAE with just four riders to support Pogačar from here until Paris.

“This morning we had three stages and now we have two. I think that we at least have the opportunity to try and if we’re in the right position then we will try. We know that it’s now one day less but I’m worried that without Soler, after the stomach problems that he had. Losing another rider makes it complicated for us and for the mountains because he was very strong,” said Gianetti.

“A gap of 2:22 is realistically a big gap. Vingegaard will be with the yellow jersey but that’s a big gap and he’s good at time trials, too.”