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That’s according to UAE Team Emirates manager Mauro Gianetti, who praised Pogačar for racing to crack Jonas Vingegaard and battle for the Tour until his final pedal strokes high in the French Pyrénées.
“I am proud of the team, and I especially proud of Tadej,” Gianetti said. “Because he could have probably won another stage, and perhaps even won the King of the Mountains jersey, but instead he tried to win the Tour.
“He attacked from far, he risked everything, and he gave everything.”
- Pogačar succumbs to Vingegaard on final mountain
- Vingegaard drops Pogačar to win on Hautacam
- Vingegaard waits for Pogačar after crash
- Jumbo-Visma defends green-yellow ambitions
Pogačar ran out of gas on the upper reaches of the Hautacam in Thursday’s thrilling 18th stage, and eventually ceded another minute to yellow jersey Vingegaard.
Starting the stage at more than two minutes in arrears meant that that under-powered UAE squad, down to just four riders due to illness and injury, had to try to crack Vingegaard early.
“We found ourselves in a situation that forced us to open up the race, with a deficit of two minutes, something that is very complicated right from the start,” Gianetti said.
“I am also proud of the team. Of the three other guys who are still here, they were just incredible, giving everything to help Tadej. We can imagine with [Marc] Soler, [Rafal] Majka, [George] Bennett, and [Vegard Stake] Laengen what might have happened.”
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) July 21, 2022
Instead, Pogačar found himself outgunned by Jumbo-Visma, who positioned Sepp Kuss and Wout van Aert to chaperone Vingegaard toward the finish line. The Dane jumped with just over 4km to go to distance Pogačar to win the stage, snatch the climber’s jersey as well as widen his lead in the overall standings with just three stages left.
‘We can only say congratulations to our rivals’
After winning two straight editions of the Tour, Gianetti was gracious in defeat Thursday.
“We tried, Tadej tried, but what Van Aert did is something extraordinary in this Tour,” Gianetti said. “And we have to congratulate Vingegaard, who raced a very solid Tour, and congratulations to his team.
“We can only say congratulations to our rivals, to thank everyone who supported us, and we are very satisfied and very proud.”
Gianetti also tipped his hat to Vingegaard, who slowed to allow Pogačar to regain contact after crashing on the descent off the Col de Spandelles late in the stage.
“We also saw today how the riders are human, intelligent, respectful, we can only call them champions,” he said. “The gesture from Vingegaard, witnessed by millions of people, that’s something spectacular.”