Pogačar prepares for big GC battle on Tour's 'hardest day'

Current yellow jersey holder Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) conceded Stage 17 of the Tour de France will be the most challenging of this year's race as he prepares to mount his most challenging defence yet of the overall lead.

Pogačar finished inside a group with his main rivals in what was a calm stage 16 for the maillot jaune battle, the top 10 contenders crossing the line in Saint-Gaudens almost 14 minutes behind stage winner Patrick Konrad (BORA-Hansgrohe).



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And the Slovenian explained the reason for the peaceful ride was the knowledge of what was to come the day after, the climax of the Tour's adventure through the Pyrenees with two category 1 climbs and a summit finish on the hors category Col du Portet.

"For sure, they're focusing on tomorrow and not today, because today was not the profile to suit big GC gaps," The Slovenian said of his rivals.

"Tomorrow for sure, everyone will try because it's the hardest day in the Tour. If someone feels super good, they can make a difference to the guy who feels super bad. We'll do everything we can to defend the yellow."

A relatively flat first 100 kilometres from the start in Muret escalates mightily into a climb of the Col de Peyresourde (13.2 kilometres at 7%) before a short flat section leads into the Col de Val Louron-Azet (7.4 kilometres at 8.3%).

Tour de France, Stage 17 profile
The profile of Stage 17 of the Tour de France. Source: ASO


Almost immediately after the descent the riders hit the Col du Portet, a 16 kilometre ascent at 8.7% to the summit finish, sure to command a gargantuan effort from the rider who will take the stage honours as well as those who expect to put serious time into Pogačar's lead, currently at five minutes and 18 seconds.

"I don't know how I'm going to prepare," The 2020 champion said.

"What's done is done. I cannot change the legs for tomorrow, but we're going to ride as hard as we can because it's a difficult climb in the end.

"I think it's going to be a big GC battle."

With cold, wind and rain aplenty in stage 16, Pogačar is hoping there's more of the same weather in stage 17 as he's shown his comfort under grey skies as well as blue throughout the race.

"Whatever comes, it's going to be hard no matter what the weather is," said Pogačar. "I'd rather have a little bit more cold and even rain on the last climb. But even if it's sunny, I will not mind it."

Stage 17 of the Tour de France looms as another huge test for the riders with two category 1 climbs before a brutal summit finish atop the Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet. Coverage starts from 7:45pm AEST on the SKODA Tour Tracker and 8:30pm AEST on SBS and SBS On Demand. 


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3 min read
Published 14 July 2021 at 5:25am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS