Jonas Vingegaard made a giant stride towards a second consecutive Tour de France title when crash-hit rival Tadej Pogacar cracked in the toughest stage of the race on Wednesday.
A day after crushing Pogacar in the individual time trial, Vingegaard went solo some five kilometres from the top of the Col de la Loze (28.1km at 6%) and did not look back despite being slowed down by an organisers’ car and a race motorbike.
He could not catch stage winner Felix Gall, who attacked from the breakaway 6.4km from the top to move up to eighth overall, but his fourth place at the end of the 165.7-km trek from Saint Gervais was more than enough for Vingegaard to prepare to celebrate in Paris on Sunday.
What was a 10-second gap two days ago is now an unbridgeable 7:35 gap after Pogacar huffed and puffed over the line more than five minutes behind Jumbo-Visma leader Vingegaard.
“I’m relieved to have more than seven minutes but we’re not in Paris yet, there’s some tricky stages left, still,” said Vingegaard.
His white jersey zipped wide open, 2020 and 2021 Tour winner Pogacar suffered a spectacular failure on the Col de la Loze, struggling to hold the wheel of UAE Team Emirates team mate Marc Soler.
“It was the day, when the route was announced, that we said was going to be our day, the day when we wanted to put the Tour upside down and make it really hard,” Jumbo-Visma sports director Griescha Niermann told reporters.
“That did happen, although we did not think it would happen this way. Jonas won the Tour today, I think, barring bad luck.”
Bad luck could have struck in the Col de la Loze, when a race motorbike stalled amid massive crowds, forcing an organisers’ car to come to a halt and another race motorbike to go on the side of the road.
Vingegaard slowed down and zig-zagged through to continue his demolition work until the line, which he crossed with a big smile on his face.
“We were blocked by motorbikes, they were almost falling on us,” France’s Thibaut Pinot, 12th overall, said.
“Some motorbikes probably stalled. Also why do they let cars pass us when the gap between the groups of riders is just 15 seconds?”
⏪The last KM of the Queen Stage, which had us on the edge of our seat all day long, and at the end, a brand new TDF Stage winner
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 19, 2023