Tadej Pogacar achieved one of the great performances of the Tour de France to blow up his rivals and grab the yellow jersey on a soggy day in the Alps. The 22-year-old Slovenian, who is the reigning Tour champion, added to his thriving heritage in the sport with a solo attack that none of the other overall contenders could match, despite the best efforts of driver Ineos Richard Carapaz, and even at this At first, it’s hard to imagine anyone else walking down the Champs-Elysees in two weeks wearing the yellow jersey.
The Tour de France is a simple concept, but the race to Paris can be won in multiple ways. Recent history has always leaned towards the methodical – think of the gradual erosion of Team Sky’s peloton, the stubborn style of Chris Froome, the accumulation of second bonuses from Geraint Thomas in 2018 – but the new generation is getting it right. a little differently. Mathieu van der Poel grabbed the yellow jersey with a ruthless attack earlier this week and Pogacar snatched it from his back here in an equally fearless and captivating style, as if winning was not just a result but a performance and that the road was his stage.
Pogacar might not have the strongest teammates around him, but that once again goes against the mainstream thinking of recent years. Rather than slowly subduing the pack as a group, he decided to ride solo and ask a question: can you live with me? Geraint Thomas and Primoz Roglic slip off their backs, now there to be seen coming the finish, perhaps feeling the effects of the falls in a hectic week. Carapaz tried to keep in touch but even the former Giro champion couldn’t keep up for long.
And it wasn’t just a senseless push. Pogacar took his foot off the pedal on the last dangerous descent in the rain, giving up the possibility of catching future winner Dylan Teuns. Instead, he reconnected with Ion Izaguirre and Michael Woods, two runners he had passed on the final climb, as they made their way home together. Pogacar may be young, but he already has the wisdom to know that there are bigger fights to come.
“It was during the stage that I made the decision to attack,” said a calm Pogacar afterwards. “I saw that the Ineos weren’t too strong in their legs, they wasted energy in the final yesterday. I felt it was the right time, so I went.
He will wear yellow tomorrow with a 1min 48sec lead at the top of the general classification ahead of Wout van Aert. His closest realistic challengers Alexey Lutsenko, Rigoberto Uran, Richard Carapaz and Enric Mas are all about five minutes behind, a surprising gap at this early stage, and right now it feels like how much, rather than if , Pogacar will retain its crown.
It was a bit unfair for Teuns, whose stage victory was sensational in itself. He mastered the conditions and timed his attack with precision to open up a considerable lead in the final climb, taking a lot of risks to win the second stage of his career. It was a second win for Bahrain-Victorious after Matej Mohoric on Friday, and there was a double celebration with Wout Poels becoming the King of the Mountains jersey.
“It’s super amazing,” said Teuns, who dedicated the victory to his late grandfather. “So far I’ve had a tough year, had a few goals but never got close, so I can finally celebrate.”
Sunday’s Stage 9 is the last stint before Monday’s first rest day and it’s another bully in the Alps. For those with tired legs, it’s an intimidating 149 km race to a summit finish in Tignes; for Pogacar, this could be another chance to impose his authority on this famous race.