Vingegaard & Pogacar Take Epic Tour De France Battle Into Thrilling Final Week

The dominant duo are separated by just 10 points
15:00, 17 Jul 2023

Search the internet for any picture of Jonas Vingegaard riding his bike and you with likely see a shadow in white. Do the same with Tadej Pogacar and there will be a figure in yellow on his shoulder. That has been the way of it in the Tour de France in 2023. Vingegaard and Pogacar. Pogacar and Vingegaard.

Reigning champion Vingegaard currently leads the race by a mere 10 seconds heading into Tuesday’s 22.4km individual time trial between Passy and Combloux, and Pogacar’s willingness to sit alongside the Dane for hours on end then stage timely attacks has made this one of the most thrilling battles the hallowed roads of l’Hexagone has ever witnessed.

Having lost a minute to Vingegaard on stage five, the Slovenian two-time champ has gone about slowly chipping away at his adversary’s lead. The very next day, he reduced the deficit between them from 53 seconds to 25, and three stages later an attack up the Puy de Dome saw him recoup eight more.

When he took a further eight seconds out of the deficit up the Grand Colombier on Friday to reduce the gap to nine, it started to feel like Pogacar had the meaure of Vingegaard and that time bonuses over the remaining stages might be enough to tilt the balance in the favour of the UAE Team Emirates rider.


Yet Saturday’s controversy on the Col de Joux Plane, which saw a convincing-looking attack by Pogacar curtailed by a couple of poorly placed motorcycles themselves held up by encroaching spectators, helped to pad out Vingegaard’s lead by a single second rather than cut it down still further.

Twenty-four hours later Pogacar looked like he was beyond exhausted as he failed to shake off his great rival on Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc, raising concerns that his daily assaults are starting to take their toll. Still, with a rest day on Monday there ought to be a chance for him to replenish his stocks of energy ahead of the final six stages to come, while Vingegaard will be plotting where he might be best placed to launch an attack to bolster his slender lead to making it a winning one.

Because the Jumbo-Visma rider surely can’t hang on to his 10-second advantage without breaking away from his perma-shadow at some point. Pogacar has the sprinting ability to beat Vingegaard to bonuses for first, second and third on the remaining mountain stages, and even the apparent supremacy of Jumbo has been tested by tactical bursts from the likes of Adam Yates and Rafal Majka for UAE in recent days.

One thing that is for certain is that this is likely to go down as one of the closest-fought Tours de France of all time, and if the gap between the two dominant forces stays the same, or even narrows, there is even the outside chance that the final stage into the Champs-Elysees might be contested for the first time in 44 years if the lead is a negligible one.

The next six days could bring us some of the most pulsating cycling action any of us have ever witnessed, and that’s not even taking into account the other 155 riders who could all yet have a say in how this greatest of races will finish.

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