Michael Woods delivered an impressive solo effort to claim the biggest success of his career at the top of a legendary Tour de France climb on Sunday.
On the same mountain where five-time Tour de France champion Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor wrote themselves into race history 59 years earlier, all eyes Sunday were on Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar’s continued rivalry at cycling’s biggest race.
Neither Vingegaard nor Pogacar finished first at the summit of the Puy de Dome after Michael Woods delivered an impressive solo effort to claim the biggest success of his career.
But the fierce rivals, riding well behind the day’s breakaway they had allowed to form, were again in the spotlight.
Vingegaard had the upper hand in the first round of their battle in altitude. His Slovenian rival responded in style to regain time in the next two mountain stages.
With two weeks of racing remaining, only 17 seconds separate the two in the general classification, with Vingegaard wearing the yellow jersey.
Jai Hindley is in third place, 2 minutes 40 seconds off the pace.
Vingegaard and Pogacar’s confrontation Sunday on the steepest part of the climb up to the Puy de Dome was not as dramatic as the duel between Anquetil and Poulidor back in 1964, when the two French rivals engaged in a “mano a mano” for the ages.
But amid silence reigning in the thin air — the road leading up to the top of the mountain is so narrow that fans had not been allowed access — the two teamed up for another epic moment, again in a class of their own, with Pogacar in the role of the attacker.
After another great collective effort from Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma teammates in the final ramp that destroyed the field, Pogacar launched his attack with 1.5 kilometers left and accelerated again on the steepest gradients. Vingegaard lost ground but did not panic and managed to limit the deficit to eight seconds to retain the yellow jersey.
“It’s not a victory, but it’s a small victory, so I’m super happy today,” said Pogacar.
Pogacar was the strongest rider up the 13.3-kilometer ascent, with a speed of 23.7 kph, considerably faster than Woods’ winning average of 19.8 kph.
Vingegaard admitted Pogacar’s superiority on the day, but insisted the profile of the Alpine stages still to come better suit his style.
“It would have been nicer to gain than lose time on Tadej Pogacar, but as I said before, I came to the Tour knowing that the first week suited me less than what’s to come, so to be in the yellow jersey at the end of the first week satisfies me,” he said.
It was a North American duel that took place on the slopes of the Puy-de-Dôme.
⏪The last 500 metres of this crazy stage ⤵️
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 9, 2023