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The queen stage of the Tour de France delivered plenty of drama and intrigue.
Tadej Pogačar took the race by the scruff of the neck with his first-ever win in the yellow jersey, and his second of this year’s race after netting the first week time trial.
The Slovenian had to face some tough competition from Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz. While the trio duked it out on the Col du Portet, the rest of the top-10 struggled to limit their losses in the mist and the cold of the Pyrenean climb.
Here’s what the stars said after stage 17 of the Tour de France:
Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates): stage winner, yellow jersey
Tadej Pogačar may not have been able to shake off his rivals until the final 50 meters, but he looked comfortable as he responded to their attacks. In fact, the only time that the Slovenian looked flustered was when he tried to get Richard Carapaz to chip in with the work on the front of their three-man group.
Pogačar has won many Tour de France stages already in his young career, but this is the first time he has done so in the yellow leader’s jersey.
“The team worked really hard every day to defend yellow. Every day was good for breakaways so every day we couldn’t do much. Today was a good course to control the breakaway much better and the guys did a fantastic job. We were 50/50, we go for a stage, or we just defend, but in the end, everyone felt good so we tried and succeeded.
“The three of us went clear but only me and Jonas worked together. I tried a couple of times to go clear to have more time, but they were really good today but, in the end, I sprinted the last 50 meters.
“It was nothing much, he said to me he thought that Carapaz was bluffing, and I knew it also. It was nothing unusual. This is the tactic in cycling and then he tried to attack. I really tried to catch him and just go in his wheel, but it was super hard. It was a fantastic day and to win in yellow is something I can’t describe.”
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma): second on the stage at :03, second overall
Jonas Vingegaard has continued to shine during this year’s Tour de France after his team leader Primož Roglič went home at the end of the first week. Wednesday’s summit finish on the Col du Portet was possibly his sternest test yet and he passed it with flying colors.
Despite being distanced when Richard Carapaz attacked with just over a kilometer to go, Vingegaard grinded his way back to the leaders to ride home for second place behind Pogačar. After Rigoberto Urán was dropped earlier in the climb, Vingegaard moved up a place in the overall standings.
“I mean I’m super happy with how I went today. Of course, I would have loved to take a stage win, my family is here, and watching me but second is also really great for me and I’m super happy. Especially as I took some time on Urán.
“I was thinking it [about Carapaz], because every time we were looking back, even when we were going easy, he was looking like he was suffering a lot, I was thinking that he was going to do a good attack. When he attacked, I couldn’t go with him, and I just went at my own pace. Luckily, I could come back and get second in the end.
“Today Tadej was really strong, and I think that second was still really amazing for me. I’m super happy about it, so that’s nice. I will try to do my best tomorrow and we will see how it is.”
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ): fourth on the stage, at 1:19
David Gaudu has long been out of the main GC competition, but he is still searching for some glory at this Tour de France with a stage victory. The Frenchman struck out on the final climb in the hope of reaching his goal on France’s national day, on a stage he had picked out at the race route announcement last October.
Unfortunately for Gaudu, he didn’t have the legs to close the gap to the three riders ahead of him and had to settle for fourth place. With one more mountain stage to come, he has another chance of victory and an opportunity to make it into the top 10.
“It was a climb that I like, in my favorite massif. I stayed at my own pace rather than trying to keep up and then explode. I have no regrets today, and I hope to make the most beautiful step possible tomorrow, I am very motivated.”
Enric Mas (Movistar): 11th on the stage at 2:27, seventh overall
Enric Mas had a tricky day in the mountains, and he was distanced very early on the final climb of the day. In the end, the Spaniard — who had been looking to improve on his fifth place overall last year — was one of the biggest losers of the day.
Mas rolled in 2:27 behind Pogačar and only moved up the standings by a single place due to Alexey Lutsenko having a much worse day.
“It was a very, very hard day. I could not find a rhythm in any of the climbs, I suffered the whole time. Perhaps the only moment of the stage where I found the sensations a bit was the last 10 kilometers after Miguel Ángel left me there after his good work. My mission in that part was already trying to catch Urán’s group.
“There was a certain moment where I was 20 seconds away from them, but in the end, I have yielded a little more. It is true that in the last part, although I was not able to perform as I should have, I was able to be better than how the climb started, but it was a really hard day for me.”