It was the first sign of a crack in Pogačar's so far impenetrable armour at the Tour de France. Vingegaard launched an attack after the hot pace set by INEOS Grenadiers on the second ascent of the Mont Ventoux dissipated, with only the yellow jersey wearer able to follow.
Pogačar followed Vingegaard for 500 metres before dropping back as the relentless pace of the 24-year-old Danish rider told. The race leader set a more measured tempo to the top of the Mont Ventoux, Vingegaard cresting the mythical ascent with 30 seconds lead.
Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) were just a few seconds behind the overall race leader at the summit, joining up with Pogačar and mounting a chase. It might have been a more successful end for Vingegaard if he had been able to catch the second and third riders on the stage Bauke Mollema and Kenny Elissonde (both Trek-Segafredo), but he had to descend solo and saw his advantage steadily reduced as the road plummetted down towards the finish town of Malaucène.
Vingegaard caught within the last kilometres by the chasers, protecting Pogačar's lead overall, which increased dramatically with Australian Ben O'Connor falling from second to fifth overall.
“It was a hard pace over the climb," said Pogačar of the stage. "In the end, Vingegaard attacked and I couldn’t follow all the way up.
"It was just a little bit too much. I exploded a little bit, but I managed to save it in the end with Richard Carapaz and (Rigoberto) Uran. Together we went well and saved the day for everyone.”
Pogačar's lead was two minutes and one second to O'Connor at the start of the day, but his nearest rival is now Uran at five minutes and 18 seconds adrift, with Vingegaard filling out the virtual podium, five minutes and 32 seconds down. In the end, it was a good day for Pogačar, one where he moved closer to defending his 2020 Tour de France title.
“I had to stay calm and find a new rhythm," said Pogačar. "I knew it wasn’t too far to the top, I set a new pace and still with good legs to push on the downhill. I managed to end well and it was a good day.”
Pogačar praised Vingegaard, who he'd already faced off against at the UAE Tour, where Vingegaard won a stage and the Tour of the Basque Country, where the Danish rider was second overall.
“I wasn’t surprised," said Pogačar. "I saw already early this year that he might be one of the strongest climbers of this Tour. He has a really bright future, he’s a super strong rider."
The Tour de France continues with Stage 12, a 159.4-kilometre stage from Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Nîmes, with Mark Cavendish potentially in with a chance of equalling the Tour de France all-time stage victory record. Watch from 2130 AEST on SBS, SBS VICELAND and the SKODA Tour Tracker for all the action from the race.