Tadej Pogačar admitted confusion over what happened on stage three of the Tour de France, saying that he was unclear who the day’s winners and losers were.
On a day that saw at least three riders abandon due to crashes, including sprinter Caleb Ewan, Pogačar’s hopes of defending his title suffered disappointment and also help.
The UAE Team Emirates rider finished in the second group behind winner Tim Merlier and lost 14 seconds to Ineos Grenadiers’ Richard Carapaz, who is now the best-placed GC rider, eight seconds ahead of Pogačar.
More positively for the 22-year-old, but not in the manner he would have liked, he is now 28 seconds ahead of Geraint Thomas and holds a 56-second advantage to what many felt would be his closest rival, Primoż Roglič.
Speaking after the stage, Pogačar said: “I did stay on the bike, but it was not a good day.
“There were too many crashes again. It was a really hectic day.
“To be honest, I don’t really know where anybody is: it was such chaos that I don’t know where anyone finished.
“I only know that I am wearing the white jersey and also that I lose time at the finish.”
Stage four is expected to be a sprint stage before Wednesday’s time trial. Given the injuries sustained to Thomas and Roglič, Pogačar may be able to take advantage of their physical states and increase the advantages he has to the pair.
Currently sixth on GC, Pogačar is 21 seconds adrift of Julian Alaphilippe who expressed delight that there was no more racing to be done today.
“I’m happy to have reached the finish line in one piece,” the Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider said.
“I’ve seen [Peter] Sagan crashing with Ewan. We were riding at 70kph so I’ve had to avoid them.
“It was a mentally demanding day that required a lot of focus. I’m happy it’s over.”
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