Tadej Pogačar again tried to find weakness in Jonas Vingegaard in the first Pyrenean stage, with the Dane responding fairly easily to his accelerations in Tour de France Stage 16. Vingegaard despite having a 2:22 min lead over Pogačar, and Wout van Aert waiting at the top of the Peguere climb, rode stage as passively without testing Pogacar on the steep climb. Vingegaard must take as much time where possible, and this scorching day was potentially another opportunity to have done so.
Before the rest day Jumbo-Visma lost two important mountain domestiques for Vingegaard. Steven Kruijswijk crashed out on stage 15 and Primož Roglič abandoned the race in the morning. The Slovenian was suffering after his hard crash on stage 5 and his performance was decreasing throughout the Tour, seemingly unable to recover during Tour de France despite the rest days. Despite all of this, Jumbo-Visma entered the final week still with a stronger team than UAE Emirates, who were left with six riders which quickly became five, after Marc Soler finished outside the time limit today.
Pogačar as promised, tested Vingegaard’s legs on the first major climb of the day, the Port de Lers climb (11.4 km, 7.0%). Pogačar knows he must find 2 minutes and 22 seconds somewhere and a long range attack is one of the few options left. He accelerated twice on Port de Lers, but the attacks were easily shut down by Vingegaard. Pogačar realized he could not drop the Dane and did not even attack on Mur de Peguere, which had a very steep part at the end at 3.52 km of 11.82%, whilst Sepp Kuss paced.
According to Sepp Kuss’ power data, the pace on climbs was not particularly fast. He averaged 5.57 w/kg for 30:31 on Port de Lers. During Pogačar’s attacks, Kuss had power spikes of 513w for 11 seconds and 588w for 16 seconds, which is not anything special. Kuss was not directly on Pogačar’s wheel, but the Slovenian’s attacks definitely were not anywhere close to his accelerations in the 2021 Tour, where he tried to break Richard Carapaz on Col de Romme on Stage 8 last year. The last part of Port de Lers was the hardest with 390w (6.45 w/kg) for 3:58.
Sepp Kuss’ power data
The last climb of the day was Mur de Peguere, which suited more sub-60 kg type climbers like Vingegaard with gradients consistently over 10%. Rafal Majka was pacing the Mur de Peguere for Pogačar but before Majka snapped his chain, he was barely pulling, doing only around 5.5 w/kg for 2:21. Pogačar at this moment rode defensively and was perhaps suffering. The big heat, with temperatures going even as sky as 40 centigrade in the past stages, is the not the preferred conditions for the Slovenian who performs the best during cold conditions and rain, compared to the other GC riders.
Even if Pogačar would have felt good on Peguere, his attack would be pointless as at the top of the mountain Vingegaard’s teammate Wout van Aert was waiting for the Dane. Pogačar also had a satellite rider waiting for him, Brandon McNulty, but even if he could drop Vingegaard, Van Aert would pull them back very likely. Pogačar showed a weakness during a sprint to the finish. He could not beat Vingegaard, who was sitting on Van Aert’s wheel. Pogačar on the previous stages always went full-gas in the last 200 metres to try to take every second of Vingegaard.
The tempo was fairly slow on the Peguere climb relative to what Vingegaard and Pogacar are capable of in peak condition. The hot temperatures seem to be taking their toll on the race, decreasing all riders’ w/kg on the climbs, but even so it was still relatively slow pace.
Pogačar in the 2020 Tour on Puy Mary, which was 12 seconds longer than Peguere, did 0.71 w/kg more than today. The average temperature in the Puy Mary stage before the climb was 27C.
Vingegaard still leads GC but today he had a chance to finish off both Pogačar and Geraint Thomas, who was dropped but came back on the descent with Dani Martinez’ help. Pogačar always tries to take as much time as possible. He showed that in the 2021 Tour on Stage 9, where he took 32 seconds off his rivals, despite already having a big lead.
Results powered by FirstCycling.com
There are two mountain stages left in the Pyrenees. Stage 17 will finish on Peyragudes. It ends with a 14% pinch, which should take more than a minute for the best to climb. Pogačar probably will again try to attack early Vingegaard as the valleys between the climbs are not long and there are technical descents, where anything can happen.