On the heights of Lourdes (Hautes-Pyrénées), starting town of this 18e step, a miracle can always happen. This Thursday, July 21, the follower of the Tour de France 2022 looked like a pilgrim torn between his childhood faith and a certain disbelief. For the moment, the miracle commission has not yet planned to take up the Wout van Aert and Jumbo-Visma files. But seeing a green jersey – the supposed sprinter’s outfit – blow up Tadej Pogacar 4 kilometers from the final climb of Hautacam, there is plenty to be dizzy with.
The Belgian’s performance does not yet equal the resurrection of Lazare, but it started early with an attack at kilometer zero and the Aubisque and Spandelles passes swallowed up like a Flandrian mountain in training. In this upside down world, Thibaut Pinot, the climber, even admitted his relief “to have been able to switch with him” at the top of the penultimate ascent.
In Hautacam, the Frenchman from Groupama-FDJ was then passed through the Van Aert grinder. Same fate for Daniel Martinez (Ineos-Grenadiers), not the worst climber yet. On arrival, the handyman of the Jumbo-Visma revealed his secret to the microphone of France 2: “It was a crazy day for me, I know I can be very strong in the mountains when I stay focused. »
So cycling is all in the head, but good legs and a big engine also help. Van Aert has all that in store to give credence to his performance on the day. For a time, we even imagined him raising his arms at the top of a pass classified as out of category with its 13.6 kilometers at 7.8%… And why not win the best climber’s jersey. Because yes, the sprinter-roller-puncher-adventurer (do not cross out the useless mention) did not win. We would have almost forgotten it, but the winner of the day is called Jonas Vingegaard. Launched by the Belgian, the Dane came to pick the stage and plant the last nail in the coffin of the ambitions of Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates), now relegated to 3 min 26 s overall.
“We will have the right to say that Pogacar’s attacks did not work when Vingegaard crossed the line at Hautacam this afternoon. In the meantime, it’s a bit like telling a lumberjack that every blow of an ax is useless because the tree hasn’t fallen yet. » This Thursday morning, a British journalist had found the right formula on Twitter to sell a last-hour putsch by the double title holder.
“I haven’t won the Tour yet”
Tadej Pogacar fell with arms in hand, but a big minute later than the Danish tree, well rooted in first place since taking power at Granon on July 13. The mass is said and the time trial on Saturday, despite its 40 kilometers, will not change the situation. As promised, the UAE rider tried again. Four times, even. Four times Vingegaard brought him to his senses.
However, the person concerned refuses to insult the future. ” There are two stages left and the time trial, I haven’t won the Tour yet”says the 25-year-old rider, who was not born to have seen Luis Ocaña in 1971 and Pascal Simon, twelve years later, lose a given Tour in a fall for almost winning.
In the descent of Spandelles, Vingegaard has also failed to join this closed and cursed club. “My chain jumped and when I tried to pedal my rear wheel slipped. I was just scared”, explains the one who has not passed far from a damaging sun. Barely time to lower the heart rate and the yellow jersey sees his rival go to fault. Arrived too quickly in a bend, Pogacar ends up in the gravel. Nothing really bad, except for his ripped shorts. Grand prince, Vingegaard awaits him a few hundred meters further for a handful in the form of a peace of the brave. “It’s an unfortunate incident. So, of course, I waited for it”he justifies.
For his part, the Slovenian understood. This Tour will not be his. He would then have slipped to his sports director in the car: “I just want to win the stage. » But this pleasure will be refused to him by Vingegaard, impressive ease in Hautacam. Beautiful loser, “Pogi” dubs his very likely successor. “I dreamed of the yellow jersey, but when we gave everything, I think there are no regrets. I did everything I could, I can be proud of myself. Vingegaard will win the Tour de France, yes. It was the strongest. »
Some will rather have the name of Van Aert in their mouths. It must be said that Hautacam has always been the scene of incredible performances. At the heart of the EPO years, Bjarne Riis’ demonstration in 1996 holds a very special place. That year, the Dane had not multiplied the breads, but the accelerations. The devoted former teammate had turned predatory leader on the climb, climbing up and down the lead group to gauge the face of his rivals.
At 8 kilometers from the finish, the cat had played enough with the mice and had gone away alone. “I found that it was not going very fast. I went to the side of my opponents to observe them », had summed up the one the peloton nicknamed “Mister 60%” because of his supposed hematocrit level. In 2007, Riis admitted to doping. A time removed from the charts, his name reappeared with a mention of his confession. And the memory of Hautacam never far away.
Before the big departure, David Gaudu told the World having come to the Tour as a viewer during the Lance Armstrong years “with French people like [Sandy] Casar or [Pierrick] Fedrigo who won breakaway stages. » Three days from the finish, the Breton from Groupama-FDJ has done his race. It occupies an honorable 4e place in the general classification, but more than… eleven minutes behind Jonas Vingegaard. This is not the grotto of Lourdes, but an abyss.
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