Pogacar rises to lead in Tour de France after win in Alps

Tadej Pogacar dealt a demoralizing blow to his remaining Tour de France rivals on day one in the Alps, where the defending champion claimed the yellow jersey in Saturday’s grueling eighth stage.

Pogacar strengthened his bid to keep his Tour title after once again proving to be a step above the rest on the most demanding climbs. The 22-year-old Slovenian set off on his own on the fourth of five categorized climbs, with Richard Carapaz, the last man – and possible contender – at his wheel.

“In the end I felt great, so for the last two climbs I said to my teammates, ‘let’s try to shake up the race,'” said Pogacar.

Pogacar finished the 150.8 kilometer journey over five mountain passes from Oyonnax to Le Grand-Bornand in fourth place, seconds behind stage winner Dylan Teuns.

Teuns, a Belgian rider for the Bahraini team, managed to maintain a small lead over the hard-pushing Pogacar over the final peak before negotiating the tricky descent to the finish.

Mathieu van der Poel relinquished the lead he had held for six days when he quickly faded midway through the brutal stage, finishing more than 20 minutes after the winner.

Wout van Aert remained in second place but fell from 30 seconds behind at the start of the stage to 1 minute, 48 seconds behind Pogacar.

Carapaz finished more than three minutes behind Pogacar and the Ecuadorian is now five minutes behind in the overall standings in fifth.

The peloton was in poor shape to keep up in the mountains after a crash-packed opening week and the 249-kilometer (155-mile) marathon on Friday. The longest stage in the Tour in 21 years had exhausted all but a handful of riders – including Pogacar.

And in the Alps, even more pain awaited.

As a portent of things to come, several riders had a hard time right from the start. The short climb under a light rain shower on the way to the Alpine forest broke the peloton into pieces.

Geraint Thomas, who won in 2018, quickly fell behind. Primoz Roglic soon followed and his Jumbo Visma team sadly left last year’s runner-up alone. Both pre-race title contenders, who had taken a fall in the first week, were completely disconnected before the serious climbs began.

Pogacar timed his devastating attack to the category one climb of the Col de Romme.

While other riders were hunched over the handlebars, Pogacar rode high, rising from his seat to power up the climb in pursuit of the handful of breakaway riders.

Once again showing that he doesn’t need much help from his Emirates team, Pogacar rode the last 30 kilometers up and down the Category 1 Col de la Colombière all by himself.

Pogacar had lost much of the time he had won in the time trial earlier this week during Friday’s trek, finishing fifth overall, 3:43 below pace. He made that up and then some after tearing it down the rainy mountain roads, cementing his position as the clear favourite.

On Sunday, the riders will face a second day in the mountains with a 145 kilometers (90 miles) ride over four passes before finishing at the summit in Tignes.


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