It was like La Planche des Belles Filles, but upside down. Three years after overthrowing Primoz Roglič in an anthology time trial, en route to his first victory in the Tour de France, Tadej Pogačar (UAE) tasted his own medicine on Tuesday afternoon.
After two weeks of snarling at the top of the passes for a handful of seconds, Pogačar and his great rival Jonas Vingegaard challenged each other from a distance during the 16th stage.
The duel ended in favor of the yellow jersey, but no one could have predicted such a margin over only 22.4 kilometers.
In the only time trial of this 110th Tour de France, Vingegaard, in a state of grace, shoved 1 min 38 s into the throat of his Slovenian opponent, yet second in the event. The Dane now has a priority of 1 min 48 s at the head of the race, with five stages still on the program, including two in the mountains.
In other words, Vingegaard carried the K.-O., even if Pogačar refuses to admit defeat and that his corner did not throw in the towel.
“I had amazing legs today,” the defending champion said simply. At one point I even started questioning my power meter, thinking it was broken. I tried to hold myself back at times, but I kept going very, very fast. I probably had one of the best days of my life on a bike. »
Yellow jersey on the shoulders for the 22nd time in his career, Vingegaard looked anything but the runner in the throes of questions that we discovered in In the heart of the peloton, the documentary series from Netflix on the Great Loop of 2022.
Penultimate to start, Pogačar did not deliver a bad performance between Passy and Combloux.
The 24-year-old Slovenian was initially delighted to be well ahead of Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), provisional leader who finally took third place. However, he quickly realized that he was no match for Vingegaard. This only increased his lead in the final climb of Domancy (2.5 km at 9.4%), made famous by Bernard Hinault, who was adorned with the rainbow colors of champion worldwide in 1980.
“It was a bit of a shock, but I still tried to limit the time lost to the line,” Pogačar said. I gave everything. »
All speculation about changing bikes or not at the foot of the hill – Pogačar left his chrono mount for a traditional bike, unlike Vingegaard – turned out to be useless.
“A little surprised” by the time conceded, the two-time winner admitted not having had his best day.
“If I’m honest, I didn’t feel the best in the second part, but I still went solid,” said the best youngster’s white jersey. I felt it wasn’t that bad, but yeah, it’s a big gap now. I was hoping for a smaller difference. I was hoping to be in yellow today. »
Pogačar spoke of the Marie Blanque pass, where he had given up a minute to his opponent in the fifth stage, a deficit which he had halved the next day with a victory at Cauterets-Combasque.
The Tour is “certainly” not over, he added, anticipating Wednesday’s daunting stage, which passes through the Col de la Loze, the summit of the Tour at 2,304 m, before arriving in Courchevel.
“Especially if it rains [Wednesday]. If so, I can promise you it will be interesting. There remain the two most difficult stages of this Tour. Anything can happen and anyone can have a bad day. »
Hugo Houle also refuses to declare his favorite defeated. “The Tour is never over until it’s over. Vingegaard can always get sick, fall, have a mechanical problem. All it takes is one mistake on a descent. We still have to go to Paris, but his state of form sends a strong signal to UAE that it will be hard to shake him up in the mountains on a stage like tomorrow. »
In a routine that was all about “putting on a good effort” ahead of Wednesday, Houle clocked the 39th time, finishing 5:28 behind the winner. He thus retained his 46th place overall.
“Very surprised” at the gap between the top two, Houle struggled a bit to describe this stunning performance from Vingegaard.
“Take 1 minute 40 seconds over 22 km from a guy like Pogačar, 3 minutes from Wout van Aert… What can I say? It’s incredible. »
Probably what Roglič still thinks of his failure at La Planche des Belles Filles in 2020. His teammate has now avenged him.
It’s bad luck for Matteo Jorgenson. Rammed by Michael Woods 500 meters from the line at the puy de Dôme on Sunday, the American from Movistar was forced to retire before the time trial on Tuesday due to a thigh and leg injury. pain in the saddle area. Of almost all the breakaways, the 24-year-old Californian also finished third in the stage won by Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) on Thursday.
Jorgenson is the same man that Hugo Houle held at bay in the Mur-de-Péguère, a year ago to the day on Wednesday, en route to his victory at Foix. His rival from Movistar had crashed on the descent, with Woods in his wheel. He had settled for fourth place at the finish, for the second time in the 2022 Tour.
“It was a hard stage, a breakaway had formed before coming apart in several pieces,” said Jorgenson, who crossed paths in Spain before the start of the third stage.
“We ended up in a small group on a climb and Hugo was behind. We rocked at the top and we all stopped. Hugo came back and attacked straight away while we were picking up cans. I didn’t even really see him leave. Eventually, he was far ahead and we couldn’t catch him. I had to settle for not winning the stage. »
Surprised that he couldn’t join this Canadian, who had no pro wins? “Yes, I was in good shape, but I believe he was too,” replied the Tour of Oman winner and Tour de Romandie runner-up earlier this year. “Yes, I was definitely surprised. »
With the abandonment of Jorgenson, the Spanish team now finds itself with only four riders for the last week, half of its starting squad.