Pogačar takes yellow with brutal mountain assault

A marauding attack in wet conditions by Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) saw the defending champion put his stamp on the 2021 Tour de France, moving into a commanding position and the race lead with a long-range move.

Pogačar attacked with 34 kilometres remaining, shook off the attention of his most tenacious rival Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) and attacked clear to set himself off on a long mission to propel himself into the yellow jersey. The magnitude of his assault has moved the Slovenian star into the race lead by nearly two minutes over Wout van Aert, with the majority of the defending Tour de France champion's rivals over five minutes behind him on the general classification. 

Pogačar was asked if it was a plan to put a big attack at the start of the day. 

“In the morning not really, we said we’d see how it goes today," said Pogačar. "In the start, it was a super hard day. Riders everywhere, in moments I was in the breakaway, other times not.

"It was super hard for everyone, in the end, I felt good, for this weather that’s great. Before the last three climbs, I said, 'let’s try to break the race' and we did it.

"The climbs were really hard, I saw that everyone was suffering. Then I just took off and tried to pace myself to the finish line. I’m pretty happy."

The enormity of Pogačar's performance hasn't fully been felt in the race, but he now holds a commanding lead in the fight for yellow, with his nearest rival Wout van Aert, never having competed for the general classification at a Grand Tour. The Slovenian was a little surprised that his main climbing rivals ended up not being able to match his acceleration. 

“I suspected that after yesterday, we did a lot of work, they tried to break us as a team, I thought they would show more today," said Pogačar. "In the end, I think they were affected by yesterday and the cold and the rain.

“Now we are in yellow and we’re prepared to defend, we’re a super strong team.”

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It was Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) who won the stage, jumping into a breakaway formed mid-stage then measuring his efforts to be the strongest on the final climb of the Col de la Colombiere. He caught, then dropped Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) and with Pogačar approaching rapidly, he had to take risks on the descent and he increased his advantage into the finish to take the solo victory.

“It’s super amazing," said Teuns. "Until now, I had a difficult year. Aiming for some goals but never coming close. Now, I can celebrate."

Teuns already has an impressive mountain win at the Tour de France to his name, his win coming atop the Planche des Belles Filles in 2019, but the 2021 victory was given added significance as he performed in tribute to his grandfather.

“It’s just amazing to win in the Tour it’s a nice taste," said Teuns. "It was an honour to my granddad who died just before the Tour, that was why I was pointing up. We had the funeral a few days before I had to go to the Tour, it was a bit emotional for me, this last ten kilometres.”

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A wet day ushered in the mountains at the Tour de France, with the action hot right from the start. The road tilted uphill immediately and the riders injured in previous days were the first to drop off, with Grand Tour winners Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) falling behind as the climbers looking to make the early breakaway hit the ascent hard.

The teams of the versatile sprinters made the race hard over the top of the initial uncategorised ascent to ensure that points classification leader Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) wouldn't make it to contest the 20 points on offer at the intermediate sprint 45 kilometres into the race.

Australian Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) fought it out at the intermediate, with Cobrelli taking full toll with 20 points while Matthews took 17 points in second, moving the Canberran into second on the standings in the classification.

From there, there were a few messy attempts to form a new breakaway with big favourite for the final yellow jersey in Paris, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), getting involved in moves moving off the front of the peloton with vision and rider identification impaired in the wet. Things eventually worked themselves back into a functioning peloton, with Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) using the lull to attack clear solo with 94 kilometres remaining. 

A chase group of 16 moved clear of the peloton with 88 kilometres left to race to try and put themselves in a stage-winning position ahead of the major climbs of the day, with UAE Team Emirates settling in behind at the head of the main bunch to set the tempo and protect Pogačar's position.

Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious), Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ), Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Søren Kragh Andersen, Tiesj Benoot (both Team DSM), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Simon Yates, Chris Juul-Jensen (BikeExchange), Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Mattia Cattaneo (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Michael Woods (ISN), Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën), Ion Izagirre (Astana-Premier Tech), Sergio Henao (Qhubeka NextHash) and Victor de la Parte (TotalEnergies) were in the group and gradually made their way across to Poels, catching him with 57 kilometres to go.

On the descent from Cote de Mont-Saxonnex, Soren Kragh Andersen and Tiesj Benoot (both Team DSM) launched an attack on the downhill section that ran into the next climb, with 45 kilometres left to ride. Benoot cracked as the pair reached the Col de Romme, with Kragh Andersen by himself at the front. 

Woods used the climb to make his move on the steep slopes, forging his way clear as the rain continued to pour down, catching and dropping Kragh Andersen as Quintana, Cattaneo, Yates, Teuns, Martin, Izagirre and Poels formed up behind as the strongest climbers in the rest of the group.

The peloton hit the Col de Romme with INEOS Grenadiers initially trying to apply pressure, with UAE Team Emirates then reasserting themselves with Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) setting a ferocious tempo. That saw all except the elite climbers dropped, with yellow jersey wearer Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) dropping away from the peloton. 

Pogačar launched a stunning attack with 34 kilometres left in the race, surging forward with only Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) for company. He then attacked again, dropping his most likely rival for the yellow jersey in Paris, and moving clear. At that stage Pogačar was five minutes behind race leader Woods. 

The defending Tour de France champion was at his dominant best, his relentless tempo seeing him hunting down the dropped riders for the break, passing them with ease and he looked to hammer home a position as the best in the race. He crested the Col de Romme with a minute's lead on Carapaz, who himself was putting time into the rest of the general classification stars with his own stellar ride.

Woods was maintaining his lead at the front of the race into the final climb of the Col de la Colombiere, but a hard chase by Teuns saw the Bahrain Victorious rider catch the Canadian mid-way up the ascent. The pair worked together for a time, but Teuns attacked clear with the news that a rampant Pogačar was approaching from behind going clear over the top as Pogačar continued to claw his way past the riders at the front of the race, moving himself into second on the road behind Teuns over the Col de la Colombiere. 

Pogačar was 15 seconds in arrears over the top with just the long, wet descent and a short, flat section into the finish in Le Grand Bornand. The 2020 Tour champion took things cautiously on the descent, caught by Izagirre and Woods as Teuns did the opposite, pushing things to the limit in the wet.

Teuns crossed the finish line solo for the victory, with Izagirre and Woods filling out the top three but the plaudits for the best ride of the day belonged to Pogačar in fourth, who put himself in a near untouchable position on the general classification standings with his imperious ride.

The Tour de France continues with Stage 9, a 145 kilometre stage from Cluses to Tignes, finishing atop the summit finish to the ski resort in Tignes. Watch the action on SBS, SBS On Demand and the SKODA Tour Trakcer from 2030 AEST.

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8 min read
Published 4 July 2021 at 2:45am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS