Cycling-Pogacar destroys its rivals two weeks before the Tour de France

By Julien Pretot

LE GRAND BORNAND, France (Reuters) – Defending champion Tadej Pogacar put the hammer on the Tour de France on Saturday as he won the overall leader’s yellow jersey with a vintage race on the eighth stage, alpine hike 150.8 km from Oyonnax to Le Grand Bornand.

The young Slovenian attacked on the penultimate ascent of the day, the Col de Romme, to outrun all his rivals in a long-distance movement reminiscent of the races of the 1980s, while the Belgian Dylan Teuns won the laurels of the day from the first escape.

Pogacar finished fourth on the stage behind Spaniard Ion Izaguirre and Canadian Michael Woods, second and third respectively, 49 seconds off the pace but more than three minutes ahead of all his rivals for the general classification.

Last year’s runner-up Primoz Roglic from Slovenia and Briton Geraint Thomas, the 2018 champion, were left out from the start and now have no chance of a podium in Paris, having suffered crashes in the first race days.

Overall, Pogacar is ahead of Belgian Wout van Aert by one minute 48 seconds and Kazakh Alexey Lutsenko by 4:38.

The stage got off to a frantic start with flying attacks before the first proper climbs, which resulted in Roglic and Thomas falling as the rain fell, and the duo finished just over 35 minutes from the pace.

“The crash took longer than I expected,” said Thomas, who touched down on stage three.

“Difficult stage, difficult start, wet roads, up and down and they were running in front all the time so I had no chance to come back (after being abandoned early).

“After a lot of hard work since January, finishing with the sprinters 35 minutes late is tough on the head.”

Stage winner Teuns added: “It was horrible conditions, it was so cold and so wet.”

HEAVY RAIN

The peloton split in two from the start and, once the dust settled, a group of ten riders formed the day’s breakaway in the pouring rain.

In the first of three first category climbs, the Col de Romme (8.8 km at 8.9%), the group of contenders for the general classification broke up, with Mathieu Van der Poel abandoned while Woods led solo of the breakaway before being caught and abandoned by Teuns.

Pogacar moved away from the group 3.5km from the summit, some 32km from the finish line, and only Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz followed before folding when the Slovenian attacked again.

The 22-year-old Pogacar propelled the last ascent, the Col de la Colombière (7.5km at 8.5%), swallowing and spitting out the escapees one by one, with the exception of Teuns.

Pogacar was behind Teuns at the top of the climb but, his rivals all vanishing in his rear-view mirror, he took no risk on the final descent.

Van der Poel, who started the day in yellow, had no real title hope, and the Dutchman crossed the line almost 21 minutes after Pogacar, who now should just need to avoid any major mishaps to win. a second consecutive title.

“Everyone will fight until the last day but I think he will (successfully) defend his jersey until the end,” Teuns said.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ken Ferris)

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