After another week of battling it out, Pogacar and Vingegaard are only 10 seconds apart, as their teams alternate between being on top. But one final kick was stopped by those motorbikes and Pog hasn’t been the same since.
Apart from stage 5 when Hindley took yellow from Yates and Vingegaard put in over a minute into Pog, the Slovenian has beaten the Dane every time he’s kicked in this Tour. From the very start until the end of the first block of racing, at the top of the Puy de Dôme, through to the Grand Colombier. Pog’s burst left Vingegaaard behind, if only for a few seconds.
Then on the first day in the Alps, Pog did it again but this time he sat up and let his only competitor, who was coming back, get back. Then another burst with less than 1km to the summit and the bonus seconds he went again, it looked like the seconds would be his, with a gap for the descent.
But no he was stopped in his tracks by the two motorbikes, one for stills one for moving pictures, as the crowds crowded in. Through all the recriminations I mentioned that I’ve seen very little evidence of police at the side of the roads on the climb. There seemed to be none about – I suppose the French police have other things going on right now. Something that was made the more obvious the following day when there was a far greater number of hi vis vests about.
After that burst was aborted, Pog seemed to lose concentration and left the yellow jersey take those bonus seconds on the climb. Pog picked up the remaining seconds on the line but in the end lost a second overall.
Then the following day, the second in the Alps, his kick didn’t have it. Vingegaard was stuck to his wheel. That burst that usual provides a gap that he can work on just wasn’t there. Two big mountain stages, where it was said Vingegaard was better suited, from past experiences, than Pog and the Dane gained a second. While Pog looked as flat as he did on stage 5.
It was funny though, with all that extra security, Pog had said before the stage that crowds on the climbs aren’t as bad as crowds taking riders down on flat areas, when the speeds are greater, and then there was a big crash caused by a spectator on a flat bit.
The big crashes hadn’t been there in this Tour, up until these last two stages. So far there’s been the odd one here and there but generally been one of two riders involved. Seven withdrawals in the first week block, up until the last two stages of the second block there’d only been four. Then day accounts for 8 riders. Though not all through the big crash. James Shaw and Romain Bardet crashed out on a descent. Not caught in any camera it looked a bad one as Bardet was really banged up and looked very wobbly on his feet while the Brit was somehow behind a wall and not looking any better.
A shame for the Brit who’d to that point had a break out race. With a couple of top 10 finishes. The second was on the Colombier, where Pidcock came in 5th, just 9 seconds behind the yellow jersey. It was to be the high point for the young Brit, so far, as he lost his top 10 place the following day. And that’s the thing with these races, it’s backing it up, day after day. You can’t have that big blowout and expect to keep in the race. He said he suffered from heatstroke on the first day in the Alps. Said he didn’t look after himself but did his team?
His team, Ineos Grenadiers, had three decent days. From not knowing what they are there for, with no Froome or Thomas, while Bernal was dropping off the peloton early on climbs. They took the Colombier stage with a solo win for the loyalist of loyal domestiques, Michał Kwiatkowski they followed it up with their young Spanish rider, Carlos Rodriguez, who had been in the top 10 since stage 2, winning again solo into Morzine, though this time from the peloton not the breakaway. Which moved him up into third, thanks to time bonuses over the final climb and the finish. He backed it up the following day putting time into Hindley who was fourth.
So the final week. Vingegaard had a couple of domestiques taken out on the big crash of stage 15 but they have that rest day and then a very short time trial to cruise through, to get back in some sort of shape to help their leader. But can Pog get it back? That mojo and that 10 seconds? Or will that incident with the bikes be the telling one of the race?
There’s really only three GC stages left to win it. The TT then the following stage and the penultimate stage.
Just 6 more days of Ned Boulting and Matt Rendell playing “hold my beer” in their competition to be the worst commentators going. As Ned pontificates about who he knows while not being able to read what is going on in front of his face and Rendell err… umm… errs… his way through such drivel even he loses the plot before going off in another direction, all of which has nothing to do with what anyone else is talking about. Add in their over pronunciation of every name. Dear god. Do French commentators say “London” or “Londres” when they commentate on something in the UK? I bet it’s the latter. I bet they don’t go all cockney the way this pair almost go Officer Crabtree. At least the wheel sucker Quintana isn’t there for Rendell to nonstop wank over.