(Morzine) Could the Tour de France be played on bonuses? Even on the toughest terrain, defending champion Jonas Vingegaard and double monarch Tadej Pogačar couldn’t create distance between them on Saturday after a dramatic day in the Alps.

In a class of their own, once again Pogačar and Vingegaard finished second and third respectively at Morzine ski resort after another hard-fought battle that concluded a day of attrition on Stage 14.

Both riders were well ahead of their pursuers in the overall standings at one point on the final ascent, the dreaded Col de Joux Plane. However, they allowed eventual stage winner Carlos Rodríguez to return, while the pair watched each other like track cyclists in a velodrome, waiting for an opening to get the biggest bonus at the top of the steep climb. Vingegaard won this duel.

Rodríguez, a Spaniard making his Tour debut for Ineos Grenadiers, then pulled away from the duo on the descent to Morzine. He completed the course in 3:58:45, five seconds ahead of Pogačar and Vingegaard.

Ottawa’s Michael Woods was the top Canadian in 43rd place, 27:19 behind the winner. Quebec’s Hugo Houle finished 58th, 29:33 behind Rodríguez, and his compatriot Guillaume Boivin finished 120th, 37:29 from the top.

Vingegaard retained the yellow jersey, increasing his overall lead by one second to 10 seconds after Pogačar sprinted to secure second place on the stage.

He was more than a minute behind, but he took advantage of the duel between the two leaders to claim victory.

“I didn’t think it was possible when I was dropped into the Joux Plane,” he said.

“I tried to climb at my own pace and then descend as quickly as possible,” explains the Spanish cyclist. I am a good descender, I wanted to take advantage of it. I almost fell several times. […] I took risks. »

In the cumulative standings, Woods has dropped from 34th to 32nd, and is behind Vingegaard by 1:26:43. Houle (2:13:13) moved up seven places, moving from 67th to 60th position, while Boivin (3:27:58) is now 126th from 131st at the start of the day.

Vingegaard accumulated a total of 12 bonus seconds for his first place at the top of the climb and his third place. Pogačar had 11 – second at the top and second at the finish – as the race entered the Alps with a 151.8km stage between Annemasse and the ski resort of Morzine.

“It’s going to be really tight,” predicted Pogačar after the race.

For Pogačar, the gloves fell definitively on the last ascent of the day. Literally. He threw them at the start of Joux Plane, the culmination of a brutal segment in the Alps comprising no less than five climbs.

Pogačar and Vingegaard started to climb through the lead group after the last rider in the breakaway was caught with 58km to go.

The Slovenian rider was the first to attack at Joux Plane and pulled out a small gap, but Vingegaard got into step and gradually came back to catch his UAE Team Emirates rival 1.6km from the summit.

Pogačar then attempted another acceleration 500m from the summit, but he slowed down as the racing bikes got in his way and he had to reduce his effort. His Danish rival from the Jumbo-Visma team then opened the sprint in the last corner before the summit and obtained the eight bonus seconds, compared to five for Pogačar.

The start of the stage was marked by a pile-up shortly after the peloton left the town of Annemasse.

Spanish rider Antonio Pedrero was evacuated by ambulance and Louis Meintjes, who was 13th overall, retired with a possible broken collarbone. Esteban Chaves of the EF Education Easypost team also stepped down.

Dozens of runners fell in a bend on a slippery road and many were treated. Adrien Petit, Meintjes’ teammate on the Intermarché-Circus-Wanty team, got back on his bike with a bandage on his right leg.

The organizers decided to neutralize the stage for around 15 minutes, before local hopeful Romain Bardet and James Shaw entered the list of retirements further down the road after crashing on a descent. Bardet has been diagnosed with a concussion, the Frenchman’s team said.

The 15th stage, 179 km to Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc, this Sunday, is another difficult hike with a summit finish, before the second rest day on Monday.