Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates has won a gripping three-way battle on the Col du Portet to win the Queen Stage of this year’s Tour de France, outsprinting Jumbo-Visma’s Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz of Ineos Grenadiers to take his fifth career stage win in the race.
With EF Education-Nippo’s Rigoberto Uran, second this morning, dropped on the final climb of the 178.4km stage from Muret, the three riders who contested the stage win at the end of a tough day in the mountains occupy the first three places on the General Classification – though Pogacar now has a lead of more than five and a half minutes over Vingegaard, his closest rival.
The trio were alone at the front of the race with 7.5km remaining of the final climb, with Uran distanced shortly after the small GC group had been exploded by an attack from Pogacar, the acceleration also seeing the last member of the day’s break, Anthony Pérez of Cofidis, swept up.
Carapaz, who lay just 1 second behind Vingegaard on GC this morning, sat at the back of the three, apparently struggling, and further up the climb the Dane and Pogacar seemed to have made a pact to try and drop the Ineos Grenadiers rider.
Instead, it was Carapaz who attacked 1.3km from the line but he was shut down by Pogacar ahead of the finish and was also passed by Vingegaard, who now has a 4-second overall advantage
On Bastille Day, it was a French rider, past stage winner and best young rider Pierre Rolland of B&B Hotels p/b KTM, who launched the first attack after the flag dropped at the end of the neutralised zone in the departure town a few kilometres south of Toulouse.
No-one went with him, and battling a headwind as he headed southwest alone towards the mountains, it was not long until the past stage winner – including at Alpe d’Huez in 2011, the year he won the best young rider’s jersey – was back in the peloton.
Shortly afterwards, six riders did get away – Pérez plus Lukas Pöstlberger of Bora-Hansgrohe, Danny van Poppel of Intermarché-Wanty Gobert, the AG2R-Citroën rider Dorian Godon (AG2R-Citroën, Anthony Turgis of Total Energies and Rolland’s team-mate, Maxime Chevalier.
All six were together on the day’s first climb, the Col du Peyresourde, which began around 120km into the stage, but by the top of the next one, the Col de Val Louron-Azet, Pérez was on his own.
With Pogacar’s team-mates setting a punishing pace at the front of the main group, however, his leadership of the stage was doomed by the time he began the final climb, dashing hopes of a home win on the Fête Nationale.
Wout Poels of Bahrain Victorious extended his lead in the mountains classification, with last year’s winner of the polka dot jersey, Pogacar now his closest rival, 11 points behind.
Two Hors-Categorie climbs tomorrow however, the Col du Tourmalet, and the summit finish in Luz-Ardiden, mean that there is plenty of incentive for Poels as well as three other riders within 14 points of him – Nairo Quintana of Arkéa-Samsic, Israel Start-Up Nation’s Michael Woods and Jumbo-Visma’s Wout Van Aert – to try and get in the day’s break.
Points classification leader Mark Cavendish was once again over the line inside the time limit, and has one more mountain stage to negotiate ahead of a potential stage for the sprinters on Friday where he could move ahead of Eddy Merckcx and become the first rider in the history of the race to win 35 stages.
At today’s intermediate sprint, which came immediately before the first climb, Cavendish was beaten to the line by Michael Matthews of Team BikeExchange – although the Australian was only able to claw back one point on the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider, who has a 36-point advantage.
Race leader and stage winner Tadej Pogacar
Today the team did a great job, checking the breaks as always and allowing me to arrive as rested as possible to the final climbs.
In the last 8km I tried to attack several times, but Vingegaard and Carapaz really pushed me and made me work to get this victory.
With Vingegaard we understood that Carapaz would try to surprise us, so I was careful and then ready to launch the final sprint in the last 50 metres.
Second overall Jonas Vingegaard
What a day. Second in the stage and second in the general classification. I’m very happy with that.
I think Pogacar, Carapaz and I were evenly matched today. Carapaz didn’t cooperate with us. When he accelerated in the final kilometre, I initially wasn’t able to respond [to] his attack.
But luckily I was strong enough to fight back and outsprint him on the line. I don’t think I could have beaten Pogacar. He is very strong and is in the overall lead for a reason.
But I don’t regret my efforts. Hopefully I can survive tomorrow and then it looks good to finish on the podium in Paris.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.