By Julien Pretot
SAINT-LARY SOULAN, France (Reuters) – Tadej Pogacar controlled his rivals and extended his overallas the final podium took shape in a grueling 17th stage won by the defending champion on Wednesday.
The Slovenian outsprinted Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard and Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz at the top of the lung-busting Col du Portet (16km at 8.7%) for his first mountain-stageafter being the first attacker in the final climb.
He now leads Vingegaard by five minutes, 39 seconds with Carapaz in third place, a further four seconds back while Colombian Rigoberto Uran slipped down to fourth, 7:17 off the pace, after cracking amid the Col du Portet.
Pogacar burst away 8.4km from the top of the Pyrenean pass, and only Vingegaard, Carapaz, and Uran could follow at first. A second acceleration was fatal to Uran, who will need a spectacular recovery in Thursday’s 18th stage to Luz Ardiden, the effort of the Tour.
Barring a significant meltdown on Thursday,his title, and while he was not as dominant as in the Alps, the 22-year-old never seemed bothered in what was regarded as the most challenging stage.
“Last week, we did a lot of work; the. Today, with a small breakaway, we saw an opportunity to go for the , who is also narrowing the gap to Dutchman Wout Poels in the mountains classification. “I’m thrilled to . To succeed with the on my shoulders is something I cannot describe. My teammates gave everything, and I owed it to them.
“Tomorrow, if we can control like we did today, we can try again, but we will see.” followed while Vingegaard was dropped, only for the Dane to pace himself back with the sight line.leader Carapaz was on the wheels of Pogacar and Vingegaard in the steep ascent to the finish at 2,215 meters. Despite being in pain, the 2019 Giro d’Italia champion attacked 1.4km from the top. Pogacar, annoyed by Carapaz’s attitude,
Vingegaard believes Carapaz was bluffing. “Even when we were taking it easy, he was looking like he was suffering, so I knew he was going to attack,” the 24-year-old said. Pogacar then sped away and could not be followed, wrapping up a solid victory before falling flat on his back in exhaustion.
In a sign that his rivals have capitulated, Vingegaard, who took over as Jumbo-Visma team leader after lastpulled out following a crash, said: “I’m super happy about how it went today, especially since I took some time on Uran.” France’s David Gaudu claimed a good fourth place on Bastille Day, 1:19 off the pace. (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis)