Pogačar, the reigning Tour champion and the current leader of the race, has been unshakeable in the opening 10 stages of this years’ race, but he finally looked under pressure on day 11.
The Slovenian was part of an elite general classification group on the second ascent of the iconic Mont Ventoux, when Jumbo-Visma’s Jonas Vingegaard attacked and managed to put Pogačar into the red near the summit.
Speaking after the stage, Pogačar said: “You could see that I was following the first couple of hundred metres but it was just too much. I cracked a little bit and I was dropped.
“Then I tried to find my pace to the top. It was not super long to the top so I knew I needed just a couple of more minutes and I’d be at the top and then it was just downhill super fast.”
The moment came as a four-rider group of Vingegaard, Pogačar, Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-Nippo) formed near the top of Mont Ventoux, before the 20km descent to the finish line.
Vingegaard attacked with only Pogačar able to follow, as Carapaz and Urán rode together behind.
While Danish rider Vingegaard led over the top of the climb, Pogačar joined up with his two other rivals on the descent, with the group coming back together and all four riders neutralising each other by the finish.
As Pogačar was able to defend his position against Vingegaard, he also dispatched one of his rivals as Ben O’Connor (Ag2r-Citroen) was dropped on the second ascent of Ventoux and slipped out of second place.
Pogačar now leads by 5-18 over Urán, Vingegaard second at 5-32, with Carapaz fourth at 5-33.
The 22-year-old superstar said: “I can say definitely it was a good day. it was super hot and a super hard day and we saw Ineos wanted to go for the stage win or something. They were going super strong so it was not an easy day from the beginning to the end. And it was not that hard a pace on the climb but it was just under the red zone and Vingegaard attacked, I went super deep and it was a little bit too much. But in the end I recovered well. We went super fast downhill with still good power. I’m happy about today.”
Pogačar said he also exchanged words with Vingegaard after the finishing, congratulating his rival on his ride: “I just said to him what a ride, congrats, because he really put a good statement today, he really showed what he could do so we just exchanged some words to each other.”
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