France, 07th July, 2023: Discount him at your peril. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) put in a timely reminder of his class with victory in Stage 6 as defending champion Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) wrested the yellow jersey from the shoulders of Jai Hindley (Bora-hansgrohe).
The 2023 Tour de France is already shaping up to be a classic. Tadej Pogacar dismissed concerns he was already finished in the race for yellow with a superb victory on Stage 6, putting time into the new yellow jersey of Jonas Vingegaard. Jai Hindley’s first outing in the leader’s jersey could well be his last after he cracked on the Col du Tourmalet as the two big hitters went head-to-head uphill.
Hindley’s brief stint in yellow came to an end on the second day in the Pyrenees after Jumbo-Visma pulverised the pack on the legendary Col du Tourmalet to distance the Australian and fire defending champion Vingegaard towards the race summit.
Action from CYCLING World Tour 2023 – Tour De France – Stage 7 – Mont-de-marsan – Bordeaux can be watched LIVE on EUROSPORT and EUROSPORT HD from 19:30 Hrs (07:30 pm IST) onwards on Friday, 07th June, 2023. Eurosport channel can be streamed on the discovery+ app.
Pogacar now trails the new maillot jaune Vingegaard by 25 seconds in the general classification with Bora-hansgrohe’s Hindley the best of the rest at 1:34. Britain’s Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) and Spain’s Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers) climbed into the top five but both riders are over three minutes down on Vingegaard and very much operating in a separate sphere.
The majority of the tough 145km stage in the Pyrenees looked to be one-way traffic as Vingegaard and his Jumbo-Visma team once again placed super-domestique Wout van Aert into the breakaway before turning the screw on their rivals.
After whittling down the pack on the Col d’Aspin, Jumbo-Visma threw a GC grenade on the Tourmalet as Sepp Kuss set-up Vingegaard around 4km from the summit, with only Pogacar, the white jersey, able to follow.
Vingegaard then joined forces with Van Aert on the long, fast descent after the indefatigable Belgian dropped back from a leading quintet to pave the way for his leader. Eight riders – including the American Neilson Powless of EF Education-EasyPost, who moved back into the polka dot jersey – embarked on the final 16km ascent with a lead of over two minutes on the large Hindley group behind.
Van Aert pulled like a man possessed for half of the climb before Vingegaard darted out of his wheel in pursuit of the yellow jersey and a possible stage win – taking only Pogacar with Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) with him.
But Slovenia’s Pogacar was not keeping to the script, the two-time Tour winner distancing Vingegaard with a rasping acceleration of his own with around 2.5km remaining. Pogacar crossed the line 24 seconds ahead of his rival to move within 25 seconds of Vingegaard’s lead in the standings – pouring water on the flames of those claims that the Tour is already over.
Asked whether the win was a sweet revenge after he conceded over a minute to Vingegaard at Laruns some 24 hours earlier, Pogacar said: “I would not say revenge but it’s sweet to win today and take some time back. I feel a little bit of relief and feel much better now.
“The display Jonas showed yesterday was incredibly. I was thinking, when they were pulling on the Tourmalet, that we can pack our bags and go home. But, luckily, I had good legs today and I could follow quite comfortably on the Tourmalet and then, when it was the right time, I could attack. It was a big relief. It’s going to be a big battle right to the last stage.”
VAN AERT SETS TONE WITH ATTACK FROM THE GUN
No sooner had Christian Prudhomme waved the flag to get the stage under way than Van Aert put in the attack which led a group of 15 riders going clear. The Belgian found himself alongside his classics and cyclocross rival Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) in a strong move that also included former world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep).
Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) was among a handful of riders who managed to bridge over as a break of 20 embarked on the first of four climbs with a lead of almost three minutes on the pack.
With 3,700m of climbing packed into the parcours, Powless eyed a return to the polka dot jersey he conceded to Felix Gall on Wednesday. And with the Austrian from AG2R-Citroen missing the move, Powless took back control of the king of the mountains competition by snaring maximum points over the Cote de Capvern-les-Bains and the Col d’Aspin.
Jumbo-Visma gave a taste of what their tactics would be when edging ahead of Hindley’s Bora-hansgrohe train to up the tempo on the Aspin. Vingegaard’s team-mates repeated this on the Tourmalet and to devastating effect, with Dutch duo Dylan Van Baarle and Wilco Kelderman going deep before handing over the baton to Kuss, who soon rode clear with only Vingegaard and Pogacar on his wheel.
By now, the outlook was not as favourable towards the break as when the remaining 12 leaders held a four-minute gap going over the Tourmalet.
Danish debutant Tobias Johannessen (Uno-X) pipped Portugal’s Ruben Guerreiro (Movistar) over the top of the Tourmalet with Britain’s James Shaw (EF Education-EasyPost), Van Aert and Kwiatkowski following. Only 40 seconds passed before the “Big Two” crested the summit alongside Powless, who they caught just before the top of an epic climb being used for the 89th time in Tour history.
Van Aert dropped back to pace Vingegaard on the descent and a lead group of eight formed before the final, forgiving slog to Cauterets, with the yellow jersey group well over two minutes behind and on damage-limitation mode.
In the humble words of the outgoing race leader, Hindley: “It was just an epic day riding around in the yellow jersey doing some mythical climbs. To be honest, I got my a*** handed to me. But I really enjoyed it. I knew I just wanted to ride my own race and if I could hang onto the two favourites, I’d just do my best. But I got spat out with 4km to go on the Tourmalet and it was pretty much lights out after that.”
Van Aert’s fast tempo whittled down the leading group before Vingegaard threw down the hammer inside the final 5km – a burst that only Pogacar and Kwiatkowski could match.
But that was not to prove the decisive moment, and once the Polish veteran had hit the wall, it was Pogacar – and not Vingegaard – who delivered the killer blow, and breathed fresh life into a GC battle which looked to be one-way traffic just one day earlier.
Pogacar did not have enough road ahead of him to deny Vingegaard the yellow jersey. But the 10th win of his Tour career saw him return to within 25 seconds of his big rival and sets the scene perfectly ahead of Sunday’s summit showdown on the historic Puy de Dome in the Massif Central.
So subdued after his losses on Wednesday, Pogacar was back to his upbeat and positive self – and even had a sneaky word of warning to Mark Cavendish, the veteran British sprinter eyeing a record-breaking 35th stage win before retirement: “Ten stage victories now – I’m coming for you, Mark!”
After back-to-back days in the Pyrenees, Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) has a chance to make history on Friday in the 170km Stage 7 from Mont-de-Marsan to Bordeaux, where he won in 2013 the last time the Tour de France visited the city in southwest France.