Forget that first communion smile, Tadej Pogacar is cruelty made man. During the 7th stage of the Tour de France, the Slovenian rider admired the charms of the Vosges then grabbed a nice “plank” to beat on the skull of his opponents. Even with a helmet, the Dane Jonas Vingegaard risks waking up with a nice bump after seeing the yellow jersey pass him on the right in the last twenty meters of the climb of the Super Planche des Belles-Filles (Haute-Saône), with that sideways look that seemed to say, “Hello, I’m here.” “On a murderous and stony slope at 24%, this gives an idea of the lucidity of the double winner in title.
Already winner the day before in Longwy (Meurthe-et-Moselle), the 23-year-old young man (UAE Emirates) does not share, especially when he has “a stage in mind for a while” like that of this Friday, July 8. The director of the Tour, Christian Prudhomme, is not yet to increase the bonuses of the 2nd and 3rd like his distant predecessor, Jacques Goddet, tired of the domination of the Italian Fausto Coppi in 1952.
For the happiness and sanity of the current follower, Jonas Vingegaard refuses to lay down his arms. The rider of the Dutch team Jumbo-Visma is only 35 seconds behind at the end of this stage. And again, warns teammate Christophe Laporte, “a short climb like that is really what Pogacar likes, it’s not Jonas’ favorite terrain”.
In a press conference, the yellow jersey also said in three well-calibrated responses that “the Tour was not over yet”, evoked “not so huge gaps” and pointed to “very strong opponents as we could still to see him “. The rhetoric is known, but the leader of the race does not give in to false modesty.
Tadej Pogacar does not give away his toys
After all, he has yet to deliver his Grand Bornand 2021, a punchy stage during which he sent his rivals into the ropes. Geraint Thomas (Ineos) refuses to throw in the towel right now. “Pogacar won today, but at least he didn’t put us in sight for two minutes,” puts the Welshman, indestructible 3rd in the general classification, at 36 years old, into perspective.
Others have lost many feathers. The Russian Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) thus drops 1mn 39 seconds, Primoz Roglic reassures him, with his 12 seconds behind, two days after his roll caused by a bale of straw. The head is better, but for the body, on the other hand, the Jumbo-Visma physiotherapist risks charging overtime. “I’m very happy to finish with the best. My pain is still there, it is as if I had stab wounds in the back”, concedes the other Slovenian.
This Friday morning, some may have imagined Pogacar’s UAE reconnecting with the tradition of “dropping” the jersey to entrust it – and, with it, control of the race – to another formation. “Thursday, they spent a lot of energy to take back Van Aert [the Belgian from the Jumbo-Visma team had led a long breakaway] and that would be the best tactic for Pogacar and to rest his teammates”, advanced the Frenchman from AG2R -Citroen, Geoffrey Bouchard.
But the Emirati formation does not know the energy saving mode. However, the opportunity was good with a breakaway of tough guys who left after 50 kilometers of rolling with their feet on the floor. Among the eleven runaways, the Germans Maximilian Schachmann and Lennard Kämna had a not too threatening profile to borrow the yellow jersey, put their Bora-Hansgrohe team to work and return it nicely later.
But no. Tadej Pogacar does not give away his toys. His men rolled to keep the breakaway three minutes away. “Vegard-Stake [Laegen] and Mikkel Bjerg shot like animals, greets with his words, George Bennett, the latest addition to the band at Pogi. The breakaway was so strong, we had to shoot like that. I thought we’d catch them halfway, but they did an amazing job. »
“We showed that we were strong”
The New Zealander thinks especially of Lennard Kämna. Great talent but a sensitive personality, the German assumes that he is not just a cyclist, of putting the bike away when the brain saturates like in 2021 when he finished his season in May. But in his head, this climber is a customer. 800 meters from the finish, some colleagues were already updating his biography as a stage winner, two years after his success at Villard-de-Lans (Isère).
The fact remains that in its “Super” format, the Planche shears the legs with its passages at more than 20%. Even more when a reinvigorated yellow jersey is thrown behind you for having met the gaze of his fiancée, the cyclist Urska Zigart. Lennard Kämna “parked” 100 meters from the finish line before finishing in a zigzag, victim of the slope, of Pogacar’s appetite but also of the hard work of his Sherpas, Brandon McNulty and Rafal Majka.
“In the ascent, we showed that we were strong, no one says our team is not up to par anymore. I’m so happy,” says the second. At 32, the Pole (winner of the polka dot jersey for best climber in 2014 and 2016) has put aside his personal ambitions and shines as lieutenant of this Slovenian kid, never the last to challenge his habits as a father. At UAE, the group lives well and the bubbles are out. “All the guys have been there today. Now we can celebrate the victory: more champagne! asks a hilarious Majka.
The New Zealander thinks especially of Lennard Kämna. Great talent but a sensitive personality, the German assumes that he is not just a cyclist, of putting the bike away when the brain saturates like in 2021 when he finished his season in May. But in his head, this climber is a customer. 800 meters from the finish, some colleagues were already updating his biography as a stage winner, two years after his success at Villard-de-Lans.
Until proven otherwise, Tadej Pogacar has never been too sensitive or disturbed by the strength of numbers. Makes him talk about his legs. And so far, no one has found the parade.