« Nous allons batailler jusqu’au bout », assure Pogacar, après avoir buté sur un solide Vingegaard

« Nous allons batailler jusqu’au bout », assure Pogacar, après avoir buté sur un solide Vingegaard

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From our special correspondent in L’Alpe d’Huez (Isère),

Such a duel at the top, in one of the star stages of this Tour de France, could have turned into a speak vulgarly. When Tadej Pogacar tried (in vain) several attacks, this Thursday in the final ascent of L’Alpe d’Huez, to try to let go of the new yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard, he seemed to slip a few words to his main rival. “No, in fact we did not speak, assures the Dane, imperial for his first day as leader of the Grande Boucle. He just gave me a smile and I smiled back, that’s all. We respect each other a lot. He is already one of the greatest runners in history. »

A deep respect between the young riders of 23 and 25 years old which obviously will not prevent a bitter battle by July 24 in Paris. This was also the creed of the Jumbo-Visma at the start of Briançon. “We wanted to toughen up the race today, says Jonas Vingegaard. We thought that the harder it would be before the climb to Alpe d’Huez, the better it would be for me. That way, it’s less explosive at the end, and I think it suits me better that way, to give me the possibility of following Tadej afterwards. »

Jonas Vingegaard followed Tadej Pogacar like his shadow this Thursday in the ascent of L’Alpe d’Huez. – Bernard Papon/AP/SIPA
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“We always come to a man-to-man fight with Tadej”

Yellow jersey for the first time in his career, the former lieutenant of Primoz Roglic on the Vuelta 2020 has in any case clearly put it in his head that it is now a duel with Tadej Pogacar (still 2 ’22” overall, but moved from 3rd to 2nd), whom he fears much more (rightly) than Geraint Thomas, Romain Bardet (fall from the podium), Adam Yates and Nairo Quintana, all less than 4 minutes away, or even the Briton from Ineos Thomas Pidcock (8th at 7’39 ”), author of a spectacular leap in the rankings after his prestigious success this Thursday.

I expected Tadej’s attacks. He will start again whenever he can. I have to watch him, not lose sight of him. After a while, it always comes down to a man-to-man fight with him. The goal was not to win the stage or to take time but to keep the gap on him. I had enough legs to follow him on the last climb but I didn’t know if I had enough to let him go. So I didn’t want to make myself vulnerable because if I had attacked, he might have dropped me on a counter-attack. »

A tactical reading shared by his opponent: “When I tried to attack, Jonas never counter-attacked. I would have liked him to do so, because it would have allowed me to answer in my turn. But he just followed me, and I wasn’t strong enough to let him go. Jonas is super strong but we will both fight until the end”. The appointment is made, and we can’t wait to see these two tear each other apart next week in the Pyrenees, even if we were far from the dingo dramaturgy of the 11th stage this Thursday.

“I spent too much energy on Wednesday on the Galibier climb”

In this sense (that of the suspense on this Tour 2022), the good news is to have seen a Tadej Pogacar much stronger than in the Col du Granon, the scene of an unexpected failure on his part the day before. “I know why I suffered yesterday, I spent too much energy on the rise of Galibier, points out the Slovenian. It won’t happen again. I felt much better today, confident again and more rested. And then the team was very good. She brought me a lot of things to cool off, which prevented me from realizing that we were approaching 40 degrees. »

Nevertheless, if water carriers were revealed in the stifling heat of Isère, UAE Team Emirates once again only placed two other riders in the Top 70 of this key stage (Rafal Majka 21st and Marc Soler 39th), when Jonas Vingegaard still had the luxury of relying on five well-positioned teammates (Sepp Kuss 9th, Steven Kruijswijk 15th, Primoz Roglic 27th, Wout van Aert 47th and Tiesj Benoot 57th). A prohibitive balance of power so that Tadej Pogacar can win his third consecutive coronation on the Champs-Elysées? The bad ambient signs, such as the new case of Covid-19 within his team, which this time leads to the departure of the Spanish sporting director Joxean Matxin, do not seem to affect the Slovenian prodigy.

We risk often seeing images of an exciting face-to-face between Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard in the Pyrenees.
We risk often seeing images of an exciting face-to-face between Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard in the Pyrenees. – Daniel Cole/AP/SIPA

“I have grown a lot mentally”

“The Jumbo is very strong but it is not unbeatable, replies Tadej Pogacar. Jonas is one of the best climbers but I can challenge him. I will try to attack him in the next few days, better than I did today. “Given Jonas Vingegaard’s calm and mastery at L’Alpe d’Huez, the double title holder is aware that he will have a lot to do, as during his incredible comeback over Primoz Roglic in 2020, if he wants to adorn itself with yellow again this summer.

“Everyone saw last year that I already had the level to be there, confides the Dane, surprising runner-up to Tadej Pogacar during the 2021 edition. I have grown a lot mentally. And it was a crazy experience today to run with this yellow jersey. Now that I wear it, I will cling to it every day. You’re going to have to be monstrous to deprive such a talent, so determined and so well protected in the mountains, of the first big victory of his career.

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