Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win stage 17 at the Tour de France, July 14 2021 Picture: REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER
Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win stage 17 at the Tour de France, July 14 2021 Picture: REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER

Saint-Lary Soulan — Tadej Pogacar extended his overall lead in the Tour de France as the final podium took shape in a gruelling mountain 17th stage won by the defending champion on Wednesday.

The Slovenian outsprinted Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard and Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz at the top of the lung-busting Col du Portet (16km at 8.7%) for his first mountain stage win in this year’s Tour after being the first attacker in the final climb.

He now leads Vingegaard by 5min 39sec with Carapaz in third place, a further 4sec back, while Colombian Rigobrto Uran slipped down to fourth, 7:17 off the pace, after cracking in the mist of the Col du Portet.

Pogacar burst away 8.4km from the top of the Pyrenean pass and only Vingegaard, Carapaz and Uran could follow at first. A second acceleration was fatal to Uran, who will need a spectacular recovery in Thursday’s 18th stage to Luz Ardiden, the last mountain effort of the Tour.

Barring a meltdown on Thursday, Pogacar looks set to retain his title and while he was not as dominant as in the Alps, the 22-year-old never seemed too bothered in what was regarded as the toughest stage.

“Last week we did a lot of work, the team was always in front to control the race. Today, with a small breakaway, we saw an opportunity to go for the stage win,” said Pogacar, who is also narrowing the gap with Dutchman Wout Poels in the mountains classification.

“I’m really happy to win on the hardest climb of the Tour. My teammates gave everything and I owed it to them. To win with the yellow jersey on my shoulders is something I cannot describe. Tomorrow, if we can control like we did today, we can try again but we will see.”

Carapaz was on the wheels of Pogacar and Vingegaard in the steep ascent ending at 2,215m and despite appearing to be in pain, the 2019 Giro d’Italia champion attacked 1.4km from the top.

Pogacar followed while Vingegaard was dropped, only for the Dane to pace himself back with the line in sight. Pogacar then sped away and could not be followed, wrapping up a solid victory before falling flat on his back in exhaustion.

On Bastille Day, France’s David Gaudu claimed a honourable fourth place, 1:19 off the pace.

Reuters

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