“We will fight to the end,” Pogacar assures, after putting on a solid Vingegaard . had stumbled

From our special correspondent in L’Alpe d’Huez (Isère),

Such a duel at the top, in one of the star stages of this Tour de France, could have turned into a… talk shit. When Tadej Pogacar (unsuccessfully) tried several attacks, this Thursday in the final climb of L’Alpe d’Huez, to try and let go of the new yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard, he seemed to slip a few words to his main rival. “No, in fact we have not spoken, assures the Dane, Imperial before his first day as leader of the Grande Boucle. He just gave me a smile and I smiled back, that’s all. We have a lot of respect for each other. He is already one of the greatest riders in history. »

A deep respect between the young riders aged 23 and 25 who will of course not prevent a bitter battle between now and July 24 in Paris. This was also Jumbo-Visma’s credo at the start of Briançon. “We wanted to make the race harder today,” says Jonas Vingegaard. We thought the harder it would be for the climb to Alpe d’Huez, the better it would be for me. That way it’s less explosive at the end and I think it suits me better that way, to give me the opportunity to follow Tadej afterwards. »

Jonas Vingegaard followed Tadej Pogacar as his shadow this Thursday in the climb of L’Alpe d’Huez. – Bernard Papon/AP/SIPA

“We always come to a man-to-man fight with Tadej”

Yellow jersey for the first time in his career, the former lieutenant of Primoz Roglic at the Vuelta 2020 has in any case clearly put in his head that it is now a duel with Tadej Pogacar (still 2’22” overall, but dropped from 3rd place). to 2nd), whom he fears far more (rightly) than Geraint Thomas, Romain Bardet (falling off the podium), Adam Yates and Nairo Quintana, all less than 4 minutes away, or even Ineos’ Briton Thomas Pidcock (8th on 7’39 ”), author of a spectacular jump in the rankings after his prestigious success this Thursday.

I expected Tadej’s attacks. He will start again when he can. I must keep an eye on him, not lose sight of him. After a while it always comes down to a hand-to-hand fight with him. The goal was not to win the stage or to take time, but to keep the gap on him. I had enough legs to follow him on the final climb, but I wasn’t sure I had enough to let him go. So I didn’t want to make myself vulnerable, because if I had attacked, he might have counterattacked me. »

A tactical reading shared by his opponent: “When I tried to attack, Jonas never counterattacked. I would have liked him to do that, because then I could have replied in turn. But he just followed me and I wasn’t strong enough to let him go. Jonas is super strong, but we will both fight to the end.” The deal has been made and we can’t wait to see these two tear each other apart in the Pyrenees next week, even though we were a long way from the dingo dramaturgy of the 11th stage this Thursday.

“I used up too much energy on the Galibier climb on Wednesday”

In that sense (that of the tension on this Tour 2022), the good news is that we have seen a Tadej Pogacar much stronger than in the Col du Granon, the scene of an unexpected failure on his part the day before. “I know why I suffered yesterday, I put too much energy into the rise of Galibier,” emphasizes the Slovenian. It will not happen again. I felt much better today, confident again and more rested. And then the team was very good. She brought me a lot of things to cool down, so I didn’t realize we were approaching 40 degrees. »

Nevertheless, as water carriers were revealed in the stifling heat of Isère, UAE Team Emirates again placed just two other riders in the Top 70 of this important stage (Rafal Majka 21st and Marc Soler 39th), when Jonas Vingegaard still had the luxury of leaning on five well-positioned teammates (Sepp Kuss 9th, Steven Kruijswijk 15th, Primoz Roglic 27th, Wout van Aert 47th and Tiesj Benoot 57th). A priceless balance of power so that Tadej Pogacar can win his third consecutive coronation on the Champs-Elysées? The bad environmental signals, such as the new case of Covid-19 within his team, which this time leads to the departure of Spanish sporting director Joxean Matxin, do not seem to affect the Slovenian prodigy.

We often risk seeing images of a thrilling face-to-face between Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard in the Pyrenees.
We often risk seeing images of a thrilling face-to-face between Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard in the Pyrenees. – Daniel Cole/AP/SIPA

“Mentally I have grown enormously”

“The Jumbo is very strong, but not unbeatable,” replies Tadej Pogacar. Jonas is one of the best climbers, but I can challenge him. I will try to attack him in the coming days, better than I did today. “Given the composure and composure of Jonas Vingegaard in L’Alpe d’Huez, the double title holder is aware that he will have a lot to do, such as during his incredible comeback to Primoz Roglic in 2020, if he wants to see himself with yellow again decorate. this summer.

“Everyone saw last year that I already had the level to be there, trusts the Dane, surprising runner-up to Tadej Pogacar in the 2021 edition. I have grown a lot mentally. And it was an amazing experience today to walk with this yellow jersey. Now that I wear it, I will cling to it every day. You have to be monstrous to rob such a talent, so determined and so well protected in the mountains, the first big win of his career.

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