Pogačar responded to an attack by Enric Mas (Movistar) in the final 800 metres of the climb to Luz Ardiden, leaving Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) in his wake, storming past the Spaniard and securing his third victory of this year's Tour de France.
"This is unbelievable," said Pogačar. "After yesterday and today, I feel really good."
Tackling two successive hors categorie climbs, the Col du Tourmalet and the summit finish atop Luz Ardiden, the pace was hard throughout, with the general classification teams keen to ensure that the best climbers would battle it out for the win.
"It was super hard," said Pogačar. "Already on the Tourmalet, it was a pace where you sit on the wheel and think about nothing, just focus. The last climb… that was the maximum."
It was two wins in a row for Pogačar on summit finishes at the Tour de France after conquering the Col du Portet the day before, and it looks like it will also be back-to-back Tour de France overall victories in Paris as he essentially wrapped up the yellow jersey with his performance. The Slovenian now holds a five minute and 45 seconds lead on Vingegaard and was caught slightly off-guard about whether he had to worry about the second-placed rider.
“Let’s hope not but maybe," said the race leader. "You can lose six minutes on the TT, that’s happened before, but I feel confident.“
The 22-year-old looks set to repeat his feat of taking out three classifications on the Paris podium, as he claimed an unsurpassable lead in the king of the mountains rankings to go with his all-but-secured victories in the general and young-rider rankings.
The 129.7-kilometre stage saw a hard and fast start to affairs, with riders more inclined to climbing saw their last chance at making an impact on the race.
Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Victorious), Juul-Jensen (Team BikeExchange), Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-Nexthash) were immediately on the offensive, jumping clear and trying to get an early lead ahead of the dual hors categorie ascents of the Col du Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden.
Reigning world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Pierre-Luc Perichon (Cofidis) jumped clear from the peloton that seemed intent on not letting the breakaway get too much of a gap before the key climbs.
Bahrain Victorious took the unusual step of chasing down the move with their own rider Mohoric in the break, perhaps thinking of Wout Poels maintaining his lead in the mountains classification by claiming points over the Col du Tourmalet.
Australian WorldTour squad Team BikeExchange lit the race up over the Cat 4 climb of the Cote de Loucrup 52 kilometres into the race. Olympics-bound Luke Durbridge set a hard pace for Michael Matthews, and Juul-Jensen dropping back to help drive the pace at the front of the peloton. The surge in pace initially saw the peloton in pieces, but the race melded back together on the run to the intermediate sprint, the prize that the Australian team had in mind.
Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was able to cling to the hot pace on the climb, then moved up on the flat and sprinted to first in the peloton, with teammate Michael Mørkøv in between the British rider and Matthews. Cavendish claimed 11 points, with the break rolling through the point ahead of the peloton and taking the higher points amounts. The incumbent in the green jersey extended his lead out to 38 points over the Australian in the sprint classification.
There were attempts to attack from the peloton, but the combined hard pace of the breakaway and the main bunch discouraged the aggressors. The continuous grind at the front of the race saw riders dropped from the early move, with just Mohoric and Alaphilippe staying off the front as the race approached the major climbs, their lead just over a minute.
Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) kicked off the attacking on the Col du Tourmalet from the base, with 17.1 kilometres to ride to the top. He was eventually joined by David Gaudu, Valentin Madouas (both Groupama-FDJ), Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-Nippo), Omar Fraile and Ion Izagirre (both Astana-Premier Tech). They bridged up to the front pair, though the peloton, led by INEOS Grenadiers mountain train kept the move close at hand.
Gaudu increased the pace once Madouas dropped off the front of the race, and set a high tempo, eventually thinning the group down to just himself and Latour.
Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) found the increased tempo on the Tourmalet too hard, and cut a sorry figure as the former second overall position holder dropped away from the peloton.
Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) attacked from the peloton with 2 kilometres left to the summit, marked by Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious). Poels then launched his own assault, and went past a number of the former attackers as he finished fourth on the climb, taking 10 points in the mountains jersey competition.
Gaudu dropped Latour on the picturesque descent from the Tourmalet, with Latour dropping back to the chasers, who were then themselves caught by peloton. INEOS Grenadiers continued their hot pace at the front of the race down the descent into Luz Ardiden in pursuit of Gaudu, coming into the final climb of Luz Ardiden just 20 seconds behind the Frenchman.
INEOS Grenadiers used up their line of stars to ramp up the pace on the early slopes, catching Gaudu with 9.5 kilometres to ride to the summit finish.
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Premier Tech) was the first of the top ten to be dropped on Luz Ardiden, looking in trouble as Rafal Majka (UAE Team Emirates) came to the head of affairs with Pogačar in tow. Majka swung off and Pogačar made an attack, with only Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers), Jonas Vingegaard, Sepp Kuss (both Jumbo-Visma) and Enric Mas (Movistar) able to follow.
Kuss took to the front of the race to help increase the gap back to the other GC favourites, with Ben O'Connor (AG2R-Citroen), Wilco Kelderman (BORA-hansgrohe), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) chasing behind, with Dan Martin attacking to try and bridge over the front riders.
Mas was the first to open the attacks in the finale, trying on two separate occasions to get clear. His final surge came within 800 metres to go and gained a gap on the others until Pogačar launched from behind. He came past the Spanish rider with a brilliant surge, able to push clear of Carapaz and Vingegaard and claim his third stage win of the Tour de France with Vingegaard second and Carapaz third.
O'Connor came in eighth on the day to move up the general classification into fourth overall, now eight minutes and 18 seconds behind the race leader, but with a battle ahead of him to keep fourth with strong time triallist Kelderman just 32 seconds behind the Australian in fifth overall.
The Tour de France continues with a sprint stage on Stage 19, a largely flat route over 207 kilometres from Mourenx to Libourne. Watch the race on SBS and SBS OnDemand from 2030 AEST, with the race coverage starting earlier on the SKODA Tour Tracker at 2005 AEST.