Pogacar strikes back on stage 6 of the Tour de France. Vingegaard new leader
Like yesterday, the Pyrenees have allowed us to enjoy another wonderful day of cycling with the top favorites giving their all without thinking about tomorrow. Jumbo-Visma tried to win the race but they didn't count on Tadej Pogacar who proves that Marie Blanque was just a bad day.
Spectacular battle in the big passes of the Pyrenees that leaves the Tour wide open
After the disappointment of the Giro d'Italia, few of us were looking forward to a great Tour de France. However, in just one week, the cyclists, with their offensive attitude, have been responsible for silencing many mouths based on spectacle. Today, for the second consecutive day, an incredible stage in which Jumbo-Visma bet on winning without half measures.
Second chapter of the Pyrenean with the arrival of the monstrous Col du Tourmalet, undoubtedly one of the most mythical passes of the race since 1910 when it became part of the Tour de France in that mythical stage between Luchon and Bayonne.
In this 2023 it was not so wild for the cyclists with a route between the city of Tarbes and another traditional arrival of the French round as the small town of Caterets but with the addition of the ascent to Cambasque, which is to climb to the top of the ski resort of Cauterets-Le Lys. A climb that the Tour de France has only used on a couple of occasions, the first of them in 1989 and that meant the presentation to the world of Miguel Indurain in a race that he would win the following year with these same passes of today as a stage. The rest is history.
Back to the present, the script of the day was an unknown after the very hard effort to which the riders were subjected in yesterday's stage. Would Tadej Pogacar be dead or was it just a bad day? Would Hindley maintain the level shown? Would Jumbo-Visma take advantage of it to seal the Tour? Many doubts to be solved in the 145 kilometers that the day had.
Already at the start we sensed that Jumbo-Visma was preparing something. Neutralized section and Wout van Aert occupying the first line of the peloton to launch an attack right after the start flag. A move that Julian Alaphilippe immediately saw and joined the party. From behind, several more riders joined in to form a group of 15 riders with names such as Mathieu van der Poel, Michal Kwiatowski or Gorka Izagirre.
A hard tug-of-war was established against the peloton that would last about 10 km until the peloton lifted his foot. Only a small group of 5 riders, including Neilson Powless, managed to connect in front.
The entire first part of the stage was spent calmly with Wout van Aert taking the lead in the breakaway, including the climb to the Col d'Aspin, while in the peloton Bora-Hansgrohe assumed its role as leader with more will than effectiveness.
So we arrived at the fearsome Tourmalet, that pass where pages and pages of cycling history have been written. Wout van Aert continued to lead the breakaway with a devastating pace that not even the timid attack of Alaphilippe managed to alter and, behind, change of scenery with a Jumbo-Visma that happened to command the group with a clearly higher pace than proposed so far by the leader's team.
And of course, so much intensity on a pass without a meter of rest like the Tourmalet, where the gradient does not drop below 8% at any time, is selecting both the breakaway and, above all, the peloton, an image that we are used to seeing in final passes and that, however, Jumbo-Visma is offering it to us with 50 kilometers to go.
At the exit of the ski resort of La Mongie all hell broke loose with a tremendous acceleration of Wilco Kelderman that left the peloton in only 4 members: him, Sepp Kuss on his wheel and behind them, Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar. Less than a kilometer ahead, a new stage of the yellow rocket came into action with a Sepp Kuss who redoubled the pace ready to put into orbit his leader who, following the plan, launched a very hard attack with 1.4 km to go.
What they certainly didn't expect was that Tadej Pogacar would be back to his usual self and would be able to respond with apparent ease to the demolition. However, Jonas Vingegaard did not let up on his stifling pace. Meanwhile, the breakaway crested the Tourmalet with Wout van Aert moving off to the side to simply drop back and wait to be caught by his leader.
After overcoming the pass, Jonas Vingegaard did not cease in the effort and in the initial part of the descent, quite technical area, even tried again to release Tadej Pogacar's wheel but, again, without success. Thus, they reached the wheel of Wout van Aert who, masterfully guiding the descent, managed to lead them to the breakaway group.
Meanwhile, behind, the survivors of the Jumbo-Visma destruction tried to regroup on the descent. However, the damage was done and by Luz Saint Sauveur the gap had reached 2 minutes, a disadvantage that would continue to grow thanks to Van Aert's hard work on the favorable stretch that, down the valley, took the riders from this iconic Pyrenean town to the start of the last climb.
Only when INEOS Grenadiers took the lead did it stop increasing the advantage, as Bora-Hansgrohe had been totally decimated with only Buchmann in that select group.
Waiting time in the first part up to the village of Cauterets, a long climb and, after reaching that town, with only 5 kilometers to go, Van Aert again tightened the pace with the clear intention of launching Jonas Vingegaard's attack, which would take place half a kilometer later, although without the forcefulness of the previous one on the Tourmalet ramps.
In any case, Pogacar responded easily and remained on the Dane's wheel, clearly restless, looking backwards and sideways. An attitude that caused even greater concern to those of us who wondered if it was a sign that he was going badly or, on the contrary, he was sharpening the knife.
With 2.7 kilometers to go we were finally out of doubt when the Slovenian took advantage of a moment of confusion of Vingegaard or those micro-breaks that the cyclist seeks to give his legs when he is carrying out a sustained effort to go out with terrible violence. Jonas tried to respond but without enough freshness to close a gap that was quickly established at around 10 seconds.
We were left with a brutal chase between the two from that point to the summit where an unleashed Tadej Pogacar drove away any ghosts that might have appeared after yesterday's stage and returned to victory lane with a resounding 24 seconds on the table on the day that Jumbo-Visma played for the winner and, very narrowly, failed to do so. In any case, it's not a defeat either, as Jai Hindley's loss made Jonas Vingegaard the new yellow jersey of the race.
Meanwhile, behind, an ambitious Carlos Rodriguez made good the work of INEOS Grenadiers, including Egan Bernal, launching an attack that allowed him to stand out in the company of Simon Yates and leader Jai Hindley, presenting his candidacy to occupy the step of the podium that Pogacar and Vingegaard could leave free. They crossed the finish line 2 minutes and 39 seconds after Pogacar.
Good news in any case for cycling fans as the reading of the stage tells us that we have a race. Tomorrow, a priori a quiet day, but on Saturday a very hard leg-breaker on the always complicated roads of the Massif Central to, on Sunday, attend the return of another of those ports that has always provided epic battles in this race: the Puy de Dome.
Stage 6 Classification
- Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 3h54’17’’
- Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +24’’
- Tobias Johannessen (Uno-X) +01’22’’
- Ruben Guerreiro (Movistar Team) +02’06’’
- James Shaw (EF Education-EasyPost) +02’15’’
- Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) +02’39’
- Carlos Rodríguez (INEOS Grenadiers) +02’39’
- Simon Yates (Jayco AlUla) +02’39’
- Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) +03’11’’
- Romain Bardet (Team DSM) +03’12’’
- Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) 26h10’44’’
- Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +25’’
- Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) +01’34’’
- Simon Yates (Jayco AlUla) +03’14’’
- Carlos Rodríguez (INEOS Grenadiers) +03’30’’
- Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) +03’40’’
- David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) +04’02’’
- Romain Bardet (Team DSM) +04’42’’
- Thomas Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) +04’42’’
- Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) +05’28’’