Jonas Vingegaard annihilated his competition on the steep gradienst of the Marie Blanque climb, putting over a minute into his closest rival before the race, Tadej Pogačar. Jai Hindley won the stage from the breakaway and earnt the leader’s jersey, with a masterclass from Bora-Hansgrohe.
The first real mountain test did not disappoint, with a lot of action throughout the stage. A 36 rider breakaway formed that was full of strong GC riders like Jai Hindley, Giulio Ciccone and Emanuel Buchmann, all of whom had not lost much time in the hilly Basque stages. Hindley was especially dangerous, as he won the Giro d’Italia last year and performed strongly in the 2023 Dauphiné mountain stages.
Jumbo-Visma had Christophe Laporte, Wout van Aert and Tiesj Benoot in the front group who could have been satellite riders for Jonas Vingegaard on or after Col de Marie Blanque. UAE-Emirates elected to control the breakaway despite Marc Soler and Felix Großschartner being in it and later dropping back on Col du Soudet.
Wout van Aert was aggressive during the stage and attacked successfully the before Col du Soudet (15.2 km, 7.0%) with Victor Campenaerts, Mads Pedersen and Bryan Coquard as the sprinters were interested in the green jersey points and Jumbo-Visma were presumably concerned with the presence of Jai Hindley in the breakaway. Van Aert was caught on the Col du Soudet by the strongest climbers from the breakaway and later got distanced, having to catch up on the descent.
The Marie Blanque climb features a 4.8 kilometre 10.5% gradient second half, which was well suited to lightweight climbers like Hindley, Buchmann and Ciccone. That was the reason why Krists Neilands attacked in the valley and later was joined by Julian Alaphilippe and Van Aert, trying to gain time before inevitably being distanced by the specialists. The gap between Hindley and the peloton was around three minutes before Marie Blanque which meant that the Australian was a real chance to win the stage and take the maillot jaune.
As expected, Hindley was the strongest from the front group and the last one to drop from his wheel was the Tour de Suisse sensation Felix Gall. Van Aert was dropped early on Marie Blanque and after that waited for his Jumbo-Visma teammate’s as the yellow train was going full gas up the climb, two minutes behind.
Michael Woods in the peloton before the climb spent 2,991 kilojoules for 3:35h. The difficulty was moderate with 13.80 kj/kg/h. There was a tailwind up the climb, which would help attackers such as Hindley. Van Aert was not able to help too much on Marie Blanque when he took over from Kuss, as he pulled for a short time on a very steep section. Sepp Kuss was flying on the climb as he reduced the GC group to only Vingegaard and Pogačar, dropping riders such as Adam Yates, Simon Yates and Carlos Rodriguez.
When Vingegaard launched, it was game over for Pogačar. The Slovenian was distanced immediately as Kuss’ tempo was already very high and helped to cook Pogačar’s legs. Vingegaard was flying up the steep gradients, trying hard to overtake breakaway riders as the crowd was blocking the road.
Jonas Vingegaard destroyed the previous Marie Blanque record. Pogačar and Roglič did the full climb 92 seconds slower in the 2020 Tour (this includes the shallower section at the bottom). Vingegaard climbed it in 20:58 min, pushing 6.92 ᵉW/Kg. Pogačar also beat his previous time and did huge ᵉW/Kg but it was not enough compared to the flying Dane. Pogačar and Kuss lost 37 seconds on the climb, also beating the 2020 Tour times by a long mile. Jai Hindley also put up a strong performance as he spent more energy in the breakaway than if he had sat in the GC group all day, doing Marie Blanque in 22:42 min, pushing 6.36 ᵉW/Kg. He was 22 seconds slower than O’Connor, Pidcock, Woods and Pinot but did not have as much draft and had to close his own gaps on several occasions when there was no cooperation in the breakaway.
Jonas was not far from the all time Top 30 trend-line. No one since Alberto Contador's Verbier performance in the 2009 Tour has been close to the pink trend-line. If the Marie Blanque performance is adjusted for altitude, then this is Vingegaard's best pure climbing performance in his career. Pogačar's level today also was high but even without the Liege Bastogne Liege crash he would have needed to find better legs than in 2022 and perform at a level he has never performed at before the hold the wheel of Vingegaard. There was some criticism of the validity of performance assessment via ᵉW/Kg calculations, especially after Pogačar beat Vingegaard in Paris-Nice 2023, however those very calculations showed in the French race that the Dane massively underperformed compared to his peak level, for whatever reason. When Vingegaard performs at his peak level, as established in O Gran Camino, Itzulia Basque Country or today, it is clear that Pogačar cannot follow Vingegaard on steep climbs when it is full gas.
Hindley won the stage and became the new leader, taking 18 bonus seconds (8 on Marie Blanque and 10 at the finish), which could have been Vingegaard's if the gap to the breakaway was closer. Vingegaard finished with Ciccone, Gall and Buchmann and did all the work in the group after the climb, increasing the gap to the chaser with his aero position. Pogačar finished in a large group with Adam Yates and lost more than a minute to the Dane. There are many climbs left in the Tour, many of which are longer and harder like Col de la Loze, so this is not a good omen for the others being able to follow Vingegaard up long and steep climbs.
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