Tadej Pogačar says he'll try and secure his second place overall in the final two competitive stages at the 2020 Tour de France, as the final mountain stage ended in a stalemate at the top of the general classification.
Race leader Primož Roglič and his Jumbo-Visma team-mates once again dictated proceedings amongst the GC contenders on stage 18's up-and-down day in the Alps. Pogačar, sitting 57 seconds down in second place, tried to break clear on the final categorised climb of the Montée du Plateau des Glières, but was tracked by Roglič's team-mate Sepp Kuss. The Slovenian wasn't able to take the final time bonus at the finish either, with another of the yellow jersey's team-mates Wout van Aert sprinting to third behind the breakaway winner Michał Kwiatkowski and his Ineos team-mate Richard Carapaz.
Pogačar says that hope is all but over of taking the yellow jersey from his compatriot in the final two stages, a rolling stage on Friday and a 36.2km mountain time trial to Planche des Belles Filles on Saturday's stage 20. Pogačar holds 30 seconds over third place Miguel Ángel López (Astana), who won the summit finish queen stage on Wednesday.
"I’m not really close to the yellow jersey," Pogačar said after the stage. "If Primož has a super bad day, I may stand a chance… but actually I just hope to have a good day and secure my place on the GC.
"[Today] was one of the toughest stages on the profile, and for sure it was hard. Jumbo did great job to control. I tried on the last climb, but it was not possible to drop my rivals. I didn’t have better legs than everybody else. I sprinted for the third place, but it was not possible either."
The 21-year-old was seen in discussion with the yellow jersey on the descent following the gravel sector at the top of the Plateau des Glières, though both played their cards close to their chests when asked what was discussed. Pogačar also said the GC group didn't realise Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) had been dropped because of a puncture on the gravel sector, with the Australian forced into a frenetic chase before eventually making it back to the GC group before the finish.
"I don’t remember what Primož told me… I think we were both happy nothing happened on the gravel section, because there were big chances of puncturing," Pogačar explained. "I didn’t know Richie Porte had a puncture. We knew he was dropped… but now I know, and I’m glad he came back because it would have been unfortunate had he lost his place due to bad luck."
Roglič meanwhile will thank his team for guiding him through the final tough mountain stage of the Tour and one step closer to taking the race victory. He, as ever, remained cautious about talking up his impending glory despite his team's relentless control over the race.
"It's been two hard days in a row," Roglič said. "But again the team did a great job, I was there, so yeah… It's one day less to work.
"It is always a lot of pace to do, a lot of climbs to overcome. We managed it very good along with the team. I don’t remember what I said to Tadej on the descent. For sure, something fun. Everything is fine, we get along very well. I rode for myself, because it’s the safest thing to go through. I focus on myself because it’s what I can manage.
"So far we did a great job along with the team. There are some tricky days to come. The time trial will decide all the rankings, but tomorrow is another day to be focused because it’s far from a flat stage."
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Follow on Twitter: @richwindy
Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.
An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).
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