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Tour de France

Tour de France: Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič reach stalemate in early bonus point battle

Sepp Kuss: 'This is what races are decided on.' Roglič and Pogačar engage in taut battle for small gains in Tour's opening weekend.

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If the Tour de France is a game of chess, the opening weekend was a stalemate.

A frenetic opening to this year’s Tour saw Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič snapping at each other’s heels in the hunt for valuable bonus seconds.

Where one Slovenian went, the other followed like a shadow. Despite Roglič and Pogačar’s best efforts to shake their foe, only one second stands between the two of them ahead of stage three, with the 22-year-old in the early lead.

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Pogačar bagged more bonuses than Roglič on each of the two ascents of the Mûr de Bretagne on Sunday to finish second on the stage and erase an overnight GC deficit.

“It was not easy for me to try to attack because a lot of guys were marking me and it turned to a game of chess,” he said.

“I still got second place, a result that I’m happy with. I’m happy with how I’m feeling and where I am at this point in the race.”

Pogačar and Roglič have come out of the gates hot so far at this year’s Tour.

Rocketship attacks from Julian Alaphilippe and Mathieu van der Poel have denied the Slovenians the opportunity for an early stage win, but that’s not stopped Pogačar and Roglič from engaging in a taut battle for bonus-second bragging rights.

Just seconds behind the camera’s focus on Alaphilippe and van der Poel, the Tour’s two GC favorites have been inseparable in a series of nervy skirmishes.

Roglič took the early advantage with his prize haul Saturday. Pogačar hit back Sunday, bettering his rival by one spot on both ascents of the Mûr.

“It was a good situation for us,” Sepp Kuss said after seeing his team leader elbow-to-elbow with Pogačar on stage 2.

“Of course we also wanted to fight for the stage win, but in the end, we were more focused on the direct competitors for the general classification. You could see that Primož and Tadej are well matched.”

Summit sprints and shadowboxing may seem a lot of energy for relatively little reward this early in the race.

Ten, six, and four extra seconds are awarded to the first three across the finish line, while eight, five, and two seconds are up for grabs at intermediate points – margins that can be easily overturned with one well-timed attack. However, after also seeing Roglič and Pogačar near-inseparable through last year’s Tour, Kuss says no opportunity can be wasted.

“As you can see, every second counts – you saw that everyone was working on that today,” he said. “That is what races — and also the Tour — are decided on. It’s important to be there at those important moments.”

Time bonuses are next available at the classics-style 249km stage Friday, and again in the mountains Saturday. Expect to see two Slovenians following each other’s tire tracks throughout.