(Cauterets) Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth: on the ropes the day before, Tadej Pogacar took brilliant revenge on Jonas Vingegaard on Thursday at the top of Cauterets-Cambasque to relaunch with panache a Tour de France which keeps all its promises.
No, the Tour is not over! The weakness displayed by Pogacar on Wednesday on the slopes of Marie Blanque, where he had given up 1 min 4 s to his rival, could have raised fears of a solo rider from Jonas Vingegaard towards a second consecutive victory in the Grande Boucle.
But the next day, for the first arrival at the top of the Tour, Pogacar revived the long-awaited duel which should serve as the red thread of this 110th edition at least in the Alps.
In a formidable mano a mano during a second Pyrenean stage as thrilling as the first, the Slovenian dropped Vingegaard by standing on the pedals 2.7 km from the goal, on the last ascent to Cambasque.
Quickly taking a lead of a few meters, he rushed to his tenth stage victory in the Tour, at just 24 years old, taking 28 seconds from his competitor.
“If it had been the same as yesterday, we could almost have packed up and gone home”, commented the Slovenian, confiding his “great joy” but also his “relief”, after crossing the line with a theatrical bow , under the eyes of President Emmanuel Macron.
“I ran smart, the form is improving day by day, I’m super happy”, added Pogacar who is only 25 seconds behind in the general classification on Vingegaard, new yellow jersey.
A year after bringing him back to Paris, the Dane was happy to find the golden tunic that the Australian Jai Hindley, winner the day before in Laruns, only wore for one day.
The Canadians of Israel-Premier Tech had a more difficult exit in this grueling stage punctuated by three climbs, including the Col du Tourmalet, hors category. Michael Woods (70th) and Hugo Houle (78th) finished in a group 23:22 behind the winner. Guillaume Boivin (97th) meanwhile accused 30: 52 behind Pogacar.
This sixth stage dropped Woods 22 places in the general classification, he is now in 33rd place. His delay is 24: 32 on the leader.
“I’m extremely happy to be in yellow again, I love the color, it’s the biggest symbol of our sport,” commented Vingegaard who didn’t look down at all and sportingly acknowledged the superiority of his opponent in the final.
Behind the two ogres, the gaps in the overall standings are even huge. Third, Hindley clocked in at 1:34, ahead of Simon Yates at 3:14.
Two Frenchmen climbed into the top 10 with David Gaudu (7th at 4:03) and Romain Bardet (8th at 4:43). All of these riders should be fighting for third place.
Because if Pogacar’s decline on Wednesday could have instilled a slight doubt, the Cauterets-Cambasque stage confirmed that there was a chasm between the two bosses and the rest of the peloton.
When Vingegaard, after a brutal squaring job by his Jumbo-Visma team, placed his attack in the Tourmalet, the penultimate climb of the day, only Pogacar managed to follow, and in a few meters the thing was heard .
Crossing the summit wheel to wheel, the two favorites found the survivors of the morning breakaway, in which Wout Van Aert once again appeared, on the descent to Luz-Saint-Sauveur.
Still impressive, the Belgian, a luxury teammate of Vingegaard, then towed the small group of eight riders up to two-thirds of the last climb, before brutally cutting off his effort, almost falling backwards.
At that moment, it could have looked like a blackboard lesson from Jumbo-Visma since Pogacar had to fend for himself from the Tourmalet in the face of the armada of hornets, Adam Yates once again being of no help to him.
But, the strategy eventually backfired on Vingegaard when Pogacar went on the attack. Overconfidence?
“We tried in the Tourmalet and I would have liked to unclip him at that time, commented Vingegaard. Then I would have had Van Aert lead the train down the valley. But Pogacar was in much better shape today. He deserves his victory. »
Pogacar even felt so good that he considered attacking earlier on the climb to Cauterets-Cambasque. “On the radio, I was told to follow Jonas instead and they did well,” he said. Because I really suffered until the end and if I had left earlier, I could have exploded. When I arrived, I had nothing left. »
Nothing more, but still enough to relaunch the Tour de France. And so much the better for the suspense, as the peloton will go back down to the plain on Friday, while waiting for the next explanation at the summit on Sunday at Puy de Dôme.