Pogacar wins and the podium is taking shape
Let's be honest: there were five stages left in the 2021 Tour de France, but two of them were really key to decide both the victory, which went to Tadej Pogacar, and above all the podium that will accompany the Slovenian in Paris.
First attacks with three mountain passes on the horizon
Today, with an impressive stage and three breathtaking passes: two first category, the Col de Peyresrourde and the Col de Val Louron-Azet, and a dessert in the form of a wall: the Col du Portet, special category. If anyone wanted to try something and had the legs, today was definitely the day.
In the middle of the French National Day, it was a Frenchman who was the first to try to do battle: Pierre Rolland took off at the start and held on for about 15 kilometres on his own, barely ten seconds ahead of the peloton. He eventually gave up the attempt and gave way to the following attacks. The second breakaway was more permissive by the peloton.
Anthony Perez, Pöstlberger, Godon and Van Poppel gained about twenty seconds on their attempt and began to see that no one was going to try to catch them. So they relieved themselves and were about a minute ahead of the peloton. Obviously, there was a world of time left, so some people were laughing at the attempt with the peaks to come.
The gap was almost 5 minutes first, and then 8 minutes. The gap continued to increase and UAE continued to cruise. There were 100 kilometres to go, but what a 100 kilometres.
In this context, the first wall appeared, the Col de Peyresroude or, in other words, more than 13 kilometres at more than 7%. With that horizon, some riders like Quintana or Poels tried to get away in order to reach a margin and climb alone. An unsuccessful attempt for the Colombian, who also has his own battle for the polka dot jersey. The Peyresroude had already taken its toll and the gap between the breakaway and the peloton dropped to 4 minutes.
Pogacar, Vingegaard and Carapaz smell the podium
Facing the Col de Val Louron-Azet we had a similar scenario: seven and a half kilometres at 8.3% average and scary, because the profile was a bit scary, indeed. Ahead, the French trio tried to celebrate this great day for their country with a stage victory with renown: Perez, Godon and Turgis were left alone in the lead while the UAE, without hardly giving up the lead, allowed them to do so. A tacit pact and a calm atmosphere as they awaited the first attacks on the last pass.
Perez dropped his compatriots in Val Louron-Azet and went solo. His cadence showed that he was much better and at the summit he passed first with more than 1 minute over his pursuers. French day, but not much camaraderie. He knew that there were only three and a half minutes between him and the peloton and he wanted to play his last chances of winning the stage, even if it was alone.
And in this context, with everything still to be decided, with everything still open, with a breakaway that seemed insufficient, with a peloton with not many riders left behind, with all the favourites even supported by several companions and support riders, the Col du Portet appeared in the background. High finish: whoever won the stage would write his name in gold letters in this Tour de France 2021. It is one of those victories to remember. Of course, they will arrive after Lachlan Morton.
On the way to Saint-Lary-Soulan, the fight between Godon and Perez left a spectacle, a measure of strength and a balance in favour of Perez. He is more of a climber, so it was better not to measure his strength. Behind, Quintana and Henao dropped off and made it clear that Nairo is quite empty at this point. With this attack by Perez, now alone, the cameras went to the peloton, which continued with its particular walk. There was no sign of the typical pull that would unhook and select the group. The whole group was hanging on pretty much in one piece. Well, not all of them: Enric Mas went into a crisis, López gave him a hand while he put a quick gel in his mouth.
The other side of the coin for the Spanish public was that of Pello Bilbao. He imposed his pace and, more than an attack, he marked the line over which anyone who wanted to beat him would have to push hard. Ahead, Perez was losing all the advantage, which was already less than 30 seconds. With 8 kilometres to go, Pogacar said enough. He attacked, caught Pello and went forward, although without releasing anyone at the start. Kelderman was suffering but the rest resisted. The favourites were not giving in and Pogacar was looking at Vingegaard out of the corner of his eye. He saw him well and attacked him again, and the Dane responded very well. On his wheel, Carapaz, but Uran couldn't hold on.
It is clear that whoever manages to hold Pogacar's wheel will be on the podium. And Vingegaard understood this and even relieved Pogacar. Carapaz was waiting on the wheel, he wasn't going to waste any energy.
The trio went away with 7 kilometres to go and made it very clear that the three tenors of this Tour de France 2021 had names and surnames. Behind, Higuita pulled with Uran to try to save the situation. The wind hit from the front and from the side and made the suffering worse. The horror film did not lack even the fog at the summit. The tension was palpable because Pogacar was pulling the trio and could see that he was not going to let them off the hook, at least for the moment, but that they were not going to take over from him either. He even made a gesture to Carapaz, because Vingegaard did collaborate to the extent of his strength. Gaudu smelt blood and tried to catch them from behind, but it was impossible.
With 2 kilometres to go, Pogacar made another unsuccessful breakaway attempt. The other two were clinging on to his wheel like glue as the only way to play their cards. What they were fighting for was a stage victory, nothing more and nothing less. Tadej Pogacar was not satisfied, he wanted to clear his doubts and go solo, but he couldn't do it because the other pair of monsters were catching his wheel again and again. Carapaz looked suffering, as if it was all over for him. But with just over a kilometre to go, a very hard attack from the Ecuadorian, Vingegaard dropped and Pogacar took advantage of the situation to be the one to suck a bit of wheel, they were serving him the stage on a platter and the Slovenian let Carapaz empty himself because Richard was only looking at the podium, he was looking at the second position in Paris. But a huge Vingegaard caught them. Tremendous. Pogacar seemed to be smiling.
With 100 metres to go, Pogacar attacks and victory. Carapaz lost his change of pace thinking about the general classification and ended up losing a second to a great Vingegaard. The 2021 Tour de France podium has names and surnames.
- Pogacar, T. - UAE | 5:03:31
- Carapaz, R. - Ineos Grenadiers | +3
- Vingegaard, J. - Jumbo Visma | +4
- Pogacar, T. - UAE | 71:26:27
- Vingegaard, J. - Jumbo Visma | +5:39
- Carapaz, R. - Ineos Grenadiers | +5:43