'It's definitely not over' - Tadej Pogačar defiant after Tour de France time trial defeat to Jonas Vingegaard

The UAE Team Emirates rider now trails Jonas Vingegaard by 1-48, but there are still two crucial stages to come

Tadej Pogačar on stage 16 of the 2023 Tour de France
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Keep the faith. That was Tadej Pogačar's message after he conceded 1-38 to his great rival Jonas Vingegaard on stage 16 of the Tour de France in a time trial that could decide the race.

The Slovenian UAE Team Emirates rider will not give up, not until Paris. We knew that already, but that task has been made even more difficult by the expanding gap between him and his Danish Jumbo-Visma opponent. The gap now stands at 1-48.

Keep the faith, trust the process, and believe that the swashbuckling Pogačar can still attack back, drop Vingegaard, and gain back the time he needs.

Pogačar has to say this, think this even, as he has no other course of action. As Philip II of Spain said at the time of the Spanish Armada, he has to tell the media, his fans, his own team even: "I am convinced that with God's help we shall overcome all obstacles."

"It's definitely not over," Pogačar said post-stage 16. "Especially if it's raining tomorrow, I can promise you it's going to be interesting. Two more really hard stages to come, I think the hardest stage of this Tour [tomorrow], so anything can happen. Anyone can have a bad day."

The 24-year-old might be convinced it's not over, but 1-48 is a chasm to jump over, and one can't help that Tuesday's result means the elastic has snapped. Not that his own performance was bad - he put over a minute into third-placed Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) - just Vingegaard's was better.

"I didn't feel the best in the second part," he said. "I still went really solid, I was feeling the tempo ok. It's a big gap now. I was hoping for less of a gap, I was hoping to be in yellow today, but that's how it is today. I hope it's like Marie Blanque stage, so tomorrow I can have good legs."

"At the first checkpoint I had time on Wout van Aert and I was really happy to be 20 seconds in front of him on top of the first climb. I was trying to go good, and then I was gaining time on him but losing time to Jonas. I had to limit my losses to the finish, I gave it my all."

The Marie Blanque reference was a nod to the difference between stage five of this year's race, where Vingegaard took over a minute on Pogačar, and the next day, when the roles were reversed and Pogačar took 24 seconds back. The difference this time, that makes it all the harder, is that Pogačar needs almost two minutes of time back on Vingegaard.

"We try to make a plan," he said. "It's not easy to gain 2 minutes, but we will try.

Wednesday sees over 5,000m of climbing on stage 17 to Courchevel, including the Col de la Loze, a climb so steep and fearsome that large time gaps are plausible. However, Pogačar has not managed to drop his rival to such an extent so far, so why would that suddenly change? 

Tadej Pogačar on stage 16 of the 2023 Tour de France

(Image credit: Getty Images)

His team boss, Mauro Gianetti, was clear that Pogačar had not done badly, but that Vingegaard was just a different level. It sounded like it had come as a shock, though.

"We did not expect such a big gap today," he said. "I think Tadej still did a good time trial, he was second with more than one minute over Van Aert - that is amazing in so short a time trial. The realities were this, Jonas did an incredible time trial. It was impressive, no?

"After the first time check, we saw 15 seconds. That was a good thing for Vingegaard, not for us, because we know now that riders know exactly the numbers they can do or not. So we were not expecting that he would start so fast, we were expecting he was slow, so it was complicated."

However, he made it clear that it was not a time to panic. It's not as if the team is having a bad Tour de France, they just seem to have come up against the immovable object of Jonas Vingegaard.

"We take the situation with ease," Gianetti continued. "We are second and third on the general classification We are doing an incredible Tour, we are fighting for a win in the Tour. We know it's not finished, we know it's complicated. We are here, and we take everything that's coming. If we see an opportunity we will take it."

Pogačar just has to hope that that opportunity comes, and that he can pounce. Faith can only stretch so far, and if not time is gained on Wednesday, it might be game over. We will know in 24 hours.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.