Tadej Pogačar Returns to his Best | Tour de France Stage 6 2023

Cauterets-Cambasque – France – cycling – Tadej Pogacar (SLO – UAE Team Emirates) pictured during 110th Tour de France (2.UWT) – stage 6 from Tarbes to Cauterets-Cambasque (144.9km) – Photo: Luca Bettini/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

After a hard day on Marie Blanque yesterday, Tadej Pogačar recovered and did a remarkable performance on Col du Tourmalet, following Jonas Vingegaard, and later dropping the Dane on the steep part of the Cote de Cauterets climb.

Tour de France stage 6 2023 profile

After dominating on Marie Blanque, the question was if Jonas Vingegaard would finish off his rivals on the mighty Col du Tourmalet (17.0 km, 7.4%) in just the sixth stage of this year’s Tour de France. With Bora-Hansgrohe defending Jai Hindley’s yellow jersey, Jumbo-Visma sent Wout van Aert in the breakaway as a potential satellite rider, clearly stating their intentions for the stage.

Jumbo-Visma made sure that the breakaway and Van Aert would not be caught before the crest of the Tourmalet, as had happened on the previous stage, which meant that the first part of Tourmalet was paced quite slow. Van Aert even set his own tempo in the breakaway group and dropped riders one by one.

In the last 15 minutes of the climb, Jumbo-Visma came to the front like on Marie Blanque and decimated the GC group with Wilco Kelderman and Sepp Kuss, doing their best to drop almost everyone. Soon enough only Vingegaard, Pogačar and Hindley was left in the group, however the yellow jersey wearer Hindley soon dropped and paid for his efforts, losing a lot of time.

Jumbo-Visma shredding the GC group on Tourmalet

After Kuss ended his powerful pull, Vingegaard launched but, to his surprise, Pogačar this time could hold on his wheel. The 8-9% gradients of the Tourmalet suit Pogačar better than the Marie Blanque steep section but this was still not expected after Vingegaard danced away seemingly with ease in the first day in the Pyrenees. This was a good sign for the race and viewers as Vingegaard was not able to do what Pogačar did in the 2021 Tour on Col de Romme stage – practically winning the Tour in the first week.

It was a straight tailwind on Tourmalet, which only suited attackers as the draft benefit was not as huge if there was a headwind.

Tourmalet wind map

Despite the most of Tourmalet being paced very slow, in the end Jonas Vingegaard did it in 45:11 min at 6.01 ᵉW/Kg, beating Tony Rominger and Zenon Jaskuła’s 1993 record of 45:48. For such a high altitude climb this is a very good performance, close to Pogačar’s best level, but before Kelderman’s blistering pace the peloton did only 5.5-5.6 ᵉW/Kg.

In the final 4.81 kilometres of the climb both Vingegaard and Pogačar did their career best performances, considering the altitude. Vingegaard for 13:27 min pushed 6.91 ᵉW/Kg, while Pogačar in the draft did 6.83 ᵉW/Kg. The most impressive part about this that they both did the previous 30 minutes at around 5.5-5.6 ᵉW/Kg and went supersonic at high altitude. The average altitude at this segment is 1,897 metres above sea level. With normalising the ᵉW/Kg to sea level, Vingegaard did 7.46 ᵉW/Kg for 13:27 min, which is his career best performance, even better than Marie Blanque the day before - the same with Pogačar. No wonder the Dane was surprised to see Pogačar on his wheel after dropping him on stage 5. Most of the GC riders on this short segment lost around two minutes. Egan Bernal before this segment spent 2,229 kilojoules for 2:35 h, which is high pace per hour, at 15.03 kj/kg/h, but not a high amount of kilojoules overall.

With Van Aert pacing the descent, valley and the shallow part of Cauterets-Cambasque, Pogačar and Vingegaard could recharge their legs.

The two kilometre section at 10% gradient was a good moment for Jonas to drop his rival but even Michal Kwiatkowski from the breakaway was able to hold on for some time when he attacked, which was a sign that the tempo is not that high. Pogačar responded with a blistering attack and dropped Vingegaard, soloing to his 10th Tour de France victory.

The full Cote de Cauterets climb was slow. 34:40 min and 5.91 ᵉW/Kg for Pogačar whilst Bjarne Riis in 1995 was 37 seconds faster. But isolating the steep part on its own tells more of a story, as the Slovenian did it in 12:58 min with 6.75 ᵉW/Kg after a super hard day. On the steep part Pogačar lost 17 seconds to Zulle and Indurain's 1995 time.

Despite Vingegaard losing the stage and time to Pogačar, he became the new race leader. Jai Hindley, Carlos Rodriguez and Simon Yates were the fastest from the other GC riders who will very likely battle out for the remaining spot on the podium. On Sunday Vingegaard and Pogačar will have another chance to test their legs on the steep section on Puy de Dôme.

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  1. So Pogacar did a brilliant job holding onto Vingegaard on the Tourmalet, and then had more in the tank on a colder day up the Caurterets. Good to know!

  2. Again, as I wrote in yesterday’s stage post those numbers for all the riders seem estimated too high for me. Using this calculator https://www.gribble.org/cycling/power_v_speed.html and setting the tailwind (that was there as the article says) to only 5kph the value for the tourmalet top is 6.55 w/kg for Vingegaard, which are again fantastic numbers but not even close to 6.91. If the adjustment for altitude with the 6.91w/kg figure is correct (so at sea level vingegaard would have done 7.46w/kg), it means Vingegaard did the equivalent of 450watts, which is just an impossible number for someone who weighs 60kg. The last climb figure is also too high according to the same calculator I used above, which gave 6.36 w/kg for Pogacar (instead of 6.75)

    1. Thanks for posting this – I have been dumbfounded by these numbers – as you point out JV should not be able to push ~450 watts for that long. Weirdly was glad to see he didn’t recover 100% today as I would dearly love for this all not to be the product of better doping

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