The cycling world was shocked last week as Tadej Pogačar collapsed, for the first time in many years, on stage 11 of the Tour de France. The Slovenian shipped nearly three minutes to Jonas Vingegaard in just a few kilometers and lost the yellow jersey.
Four days later and Vingegaard still has the yellow jersey on his back with a two-minute and 22-second lead over Pogačar in the overall standings. A lot can happen in the final week of the Tour de France, but in this article, we’re going to reflect on how we got here. How did Jonas Vingegaard drop Tadej Pogačar, who many thought was the best bike rider in the world?
First, we have to go back to Stage 10 of the Tour de France. The first stage after the second rest day was 150km with over 2,700m (8,860ft), culminating with a summit finish at Megève. The breakaway stole the show with Magnus Cort coming out on top, but that didn’t stop Pogačar from launching his sprint from the GC group. In hindsight, it’s curious to say if Pogačar was burning unnecessary matches with all the hard stages to come.
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The next two stages would flip the Tour on its head, and first up was the 152km stage to the Col du Granon. Despite the flat start, the stage featured over 4,000m (13,120ft) of climbing, plus the Souvenir Henri Desgrange which marks the highest point reached in this year’s Tour. That prize came at the top of the Col du Galibier, a 17.8km climb at 6.8% that was immediately preceded by the Col du Télégraphe which was 11.9km at 7%.
Jumbo-Visma wasted no time in trying to drop Pogačar — first it was Tiesj Benoot and Primož Roglič who attacked on the Col du Télégraphe. With 70km to go, the Tour was exploding into pieces, and soon there was a surreal quartet up the road: Pogačar, Vingegaard, Roglič, and Geraint Thomas. The Jumbo-Visma teammates attacked Pogačar one after the other for the next 10km, forcing the yellow jersey to burn as many matches as possible. But the Tour leader counterattacked by setting a pace on the Col du Galibier that dropped everyone by Vingegaard. Though we don’t have Pogačar or Vingegaard’s power data, we can estimate their output on the Col du Galibier by comparing their times to other riders with power.
Sepp Kuss climbed the Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier exactly 45 seconds slower than Pogačar and Vingegaard, yet the American was probably sitting in the draft 90% of the time. Up ahead, Pogačar and Vingegaard were attacking each other before Pogačar put his nose in the wind for nearly the entire Galibier.
Kuss – Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier
Average Power: 319w (5.2w/kg)
Col du Télégraphe: 330w (5.5w/kg) for 31:22
Col du Galibier: 322w (5.3w/kg) for 48:25
Peak 20min Power: 342w (5.6w/kg)
Pogačar – Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier
Estimated Average Power: ~5.4w/kg
Col du Télégraphe: ~5.5w/kg for 31:20
Col du Galibier: 323w ~5.5w/kg) for 48:10
The long valley in between the Col du Galibier and Col du Granon allowed a large group of riders to come back into contention, and it was Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert who led the front group into the base of the final climb.
Sepp Kuss and Primož Roglič took tiny pulls at the front, but the pace was already high at the bottom of the final climb. Rafał Majka had returned to the front group, and now it was the Pole’s turn to take over at the front. However, it wasn’t long before TV cameras caught Pogačar talking into his radio — in hindsight, he was probably telling Majka to slow down.
One by one, the GC contenders began dropping Majka and Pogačar, and it wasn’t long before Vingegaard attacked off the front. Pogačar could hardly react, and within a few minutes, you could tell that he was going backward. In just 5km, Vingegaard put two minutes and 51 seconds into Pogačar, taking the stage win and the yellow jersey ahead of Nairo Quintana.
Vingegaard’s attack was one of the most vicious we’ve seen in years, but it shouldn’t have been enough to put nearly three minutes into Pogačar. In essence, we know what power output Pogačar can maintain for 40 minutes — it’s somewhere around six watts per kilo. But on this stage, perhaps he fired too many bullets or suffered in the heat and high altitude because his performance was far below his standard.
Vingegaard – Col du Granon
Estimated Average Power: ~6.1w/kg
Final 5km: ~6.5w/kg) for 17 minutes
Pogačar – Col du Granon
Estimated Average Power: ~5.6w/kg
Final 5km: ~5.4w/kg) for 20 minutes
Stage 12 was a much more straightforward affair, and there would be no GC riders attacking from 70km out. Ahead of the Bastille Day finish atop Alpe d’Huez, the peloton would tackle two hors categorie climbs in the Col du Galibier (easier side) and the Col de la Croix de Fer.
A large breakaway went away at the beginning of the stage including Louis Meintjes, Chris Froome, and Neilson Powless among others. Tom Pidcock bridged across on the Galibier descent, and soon the breakaway had a seven-minute lead. Not much happened until the base of Alpe d’Huez where Pidcock accelerated with 10.6km to go.
Meintjes and Powless tried to hang on, but the Briton was simply too strong — Pidcock would go onto win at the summit of Alpe d’Huez, arguably the biggest road win of his career. Back in the GC group, Jumbo-Visma set up their lead-out train with Kuss, Roglič, and then Vingegaard. But it was Pogačar who was the first to attack.
The Slovenian looked to be going 20mph up the slopes of Alpe d’Huez, but he still couldn’t shake Vingegaard. There was a bit of a stalemate which allowed Thomas, Kuss, and Enric Mas to return to the front group. As expected, Pogačar led out the sprint but was unable to take any time on Vingegaard or Thomas.
Kuss – Alpe d’Huez
Average Power: 371w (6.1w/kg)
Peak 20min Power: 383w (6.3w/kg)
Pogačar and Vingegaard – Alpe d’Huez
Average Power: ~6.1w/kg
While Stage 13 looks like a textbook breakaway win for Mads Pedersen, we have to mention Matteo Jorgenson’s ride to help him earn his second top-five in four days. The 193km stage from Bourg d’Oisans to Saint-Étienne included three categorized climbs and plenty more rollers throughout the day.
The breakaway didn’t go until the first climb of the day, the Côte de Brié, where Jorgenson joined Filippo Ganna and Stefan Küng in the lead. Jorgenson’s numbers are some of the highest I’ve ever seen in a Tour de France breakaway, and he wouldn’t even be sprinting for the podium at the end of the stage.
Jorgenson – Côte de Brié
Average Power: 502w (7.2w/kg)
Peak 4min Power: 520w (7.5w/kg)
Ganna – Côte de Brié
Average Power: 573w (6.7w/kg)
Jorgenson worked within the lead group up until the final uncategorized climb where Mads Pedersen threw down an insane attack. Jorgenson was doing over 800w in the draft of Küng, yet the pair was losing ground to the flying Dane. Only Fred Wright and Hugo Houle made it across to Pedersen, who beat them comfortably to the take the stage win. Behind, it was Küng, Ganna, and Jorgenson working together for the final 10km, yet they lost 30 seconds to the lead trio.
This is what it took for Jorgenson to be in the breakaway with Ganna and Küng in the final 10km of a Tour de France stage.
Jorgenson – Final 13km of Stage 13
Average Power: 373w (5.3w/kg)
Normalized Power: 401w (5.5w/kg)
Michael Matthews took the win from the breakaway on Stage 14, and soon the peloton came barreling through to Mende. Though Pogačar was unable to drop Vingegaard on the steep final climb, the pair did the most ridiculous short-climb effort of this year’s Tour.
Brandon McNulty took the lead at the bottom of the final climb and did over 515w for two and a half minutes before Pogačar took over. By our best estimates, Pogačar and Vingegaard climbed the Montée Jalabert at 7.1-7.2w/kg. That is insane for a nine-minute climb, and by the looks on both of their faces, they could’ve gone even faster.
McNulty – Montée Jalabert
Average Power: 353w (5.1w/kg)
First Kilometer: 513w (7.4w/kg) for 2:27
Peak 90sec Power: 550w (8w/kg)
Pogačar and Vingegaard – Montée Jalabert
Average Power: ~7.2w/kg
Power Analysis data courtesy of Strava
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