Eternal handshake between Pogacar and Vingegaard

There are beginnings that seem like endings.

16 July 2022 Saturday 11:15
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Eternal handshake between Pogacar and Vingegaard

There are beginnings that seem like endings. There are outputs that could be goals. Third-class ports that do damage like a first-class port. And improvised movements, fruits of spontaneity, of the desire to get rid of the thorn, which go through orchestrated attacks, plotted with nocturnality and treachery, which can be seen as evil plans with all the bad drool in the world but in reality they are spark and opportunity .

Like all the cyclists of the Jumbo and the yellow jersey, Vingegaard knew that Pogacar, the dethroned leader, would try it on the Alpe d'Huez almost as an obligation that the champions have to launch a swan song the day after his sinking and that he would repeat it this Saturday on the explosive and short climb to the Mende aerodrome, nobody imagined such a madness. But in whose head could it fit? In none. Or rather: only one.

At the beginning, while fighting to form the breakaway of the day and climbing the Côte de Saint-Just-Malmont, with just an average gradient of 5%, Pogacar wanted to cause chaos. More like a rambunctious child than an attempt to turn the Tour upside down, he got playful, put on the world for a hat and launched two demarrajes. They did not even reach the height of attacks. He first wanted to infiltrate a leak. Then he hit the wheel of Van Aert, a teammate of the leader. And Vingegaard, who was not well positioned, panicked.

The accelerations of the Slovenian caught the Jumbo clueless. And the Dane decided that he should react in person. Instead of tapping into the potential of his team, instead of relying on his teammates, he himself went looking for his rival. Unnecessary? Surely. Resolute? Totally. Vingegaard neutralized the moves but went with Pogacar's instincts, losing his cool by jumping and not trusting the team's unity.

The Jumbo went through a critical moment as it began to lose domestiques. Roglic, Benoot or Van Hoydoonck were cut off in multiple accelerations. A weakness not seen until now in the Dutch team, which later, once the race was settled and with the breakaway formed, regained calm and managed to recover the seven cyclists to protect the leader.

Vingegaard's fear is that Pogacar will find a crack in his armor, that it will surprise him and cause the Tour, which seems controlled, to combust. The problem with the Slovenian is that he tries and tries and it is always in vain. Nor on the final climb, very hard but short. Twice more he attacked him at the top of the Croix Neuve, where he won Jalabert in 1995 and where Marcos Serrano, Joaquim Rodríguez and Omar Fraile were also crowned, but there is nowhere to hold on, not even a grimace did he get. Not a second was stolen from him. Not even in the sprint.

The two stayed again in a hand in hand that is presumed eternal in the Pyrenees. Two men and one destiny. As soon as Pogacar speeds up he can only be followed by Vingegaard. He is fine, he goes strong and hurts because neither Thomas nor Gaudu, nor Enric Mas, who had worse legs than in Alpe d'Huez, go with them. But not enough to get rid of his shadow, that doesn't give him relief, that lets him wear out, that he follows him everywhere, that he carries in his pocket.

"For me, having to attack is fine," says Pogacar so that it is not noticed that the leader's granite defense is taking a toll on his confidence. Today was too early. I have seen that Vingegaard had to make an effort to get there but he has a very powerful team. But I am looking forward to the Pyrenees”.

Ahead, in the breakaway, with a great advantage, as in the Megève heliport, Luis León Sánchez lacked strength. Matthews and Bettiol, two good classic hands, played for victory despite the climbers they had with them such as Pinot, Fuglsang, Woods, Meintjes, who returns to the top-10 thanks to the twelve minutes of the break, or the Catalan Marc Soler who, on the first day he was released, he finished fourth.

The stage went to the Australian Michael Matthews, who had not won the Tour since 2017, who stuck to Bettiol's wheel like Vingegaard a Pogacar, and then clinched him. Due to his top speed, the Aussie, who had already been second in Longwy and Lausanne, is always a bad traveling companion. Either you pick it up or you regret it. "Continue to believe always. Believe always," Matthews said into the microphone to his team. It is the motto of Pogacar to Paris.



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