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FOIX, France (VN) – One down, two to go. If Jonas Vingegaard can maintain his 2:22 lead over Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) through the Pyrenees then even the might of the Slovenian will not be able to overturn such a deficit in the final time trial on stage 20.
On stage 16 from Carcassonne to Foix the GC race was once again lit up by several attacks from Pogačar with the UAE rider kicking clear twice on the penultimate climb of the Port de Lers and then once more on the descent.
Just like he had on Alpe d’Huez, and the climb to Mende, Vingegaard was equal to every one of the accelerations. He did enough to even dissuade Pogačar from attacking over the final climb of the day with the riders coming over the line in Foix on the same time. A draw in one since, but with one day in the Pyrenees ticked off Vingegaard can take a moral victory at least.
“We have a strong team, and luckily today I was able to follow Pogačar,” the Dane said in his short press conference following the stage.
“We have to take it day by day and I’ll fight my best and we’ll just see what it is in Paris,” he added before he was asked about his condition and health following a crash that took him down on stage 14 of the race.
“I don’t feel like I’m going down, I feel like I recover really well in a GC and I think after the rest day it was needed after the crash to recover a bit more. I’m looking forward to the next few days.”
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Pogačar will not relent as the race delves deeper in the mountains over the next two stages, with two brutally tough summit finishes on the horizon. Pogačar did lose a teammate to the time cut on Tuesday, Marc Soler, and the Slovenian has just four riders to help him over the all-important stages in the Pyrenees, but just like the attacks he’s faced in the mountains, Vingegaard can bat away questions about his main rival just as easily.
“I’m just trying to do my best,” Vingegaard said.
One suspects that Pogačar will roll the dice either on stage 17 or 18 and go for broke. That would mean a long-range attack in order to isolate Vingegaard.
“I know Tadej will attack me so every day is about trying to follow him and not leaving any gaps. Of course there are a lot of other riders I have to follow if they attack and I also did today. I just have to do my best. I expect him to attack me every moment so I have to be ready. It’s not bad for me to go from early, the harder the race the better.”