Tadej Pogacar concedes Tour de France as Felix Gall pips Simon Yates on stage 17
Tadej Pogacar conceded defeat to Jonas Vingegaard in the fight for yellow as Felix Gall beat Simon Yates to victory on stage 17 of the Tour de France.
While Gall and Yates fought out stage honours from the breakaway in Courchevel, the overall battle in this Tour was effectively decided on the mighty Col de la Loze at the end of the 166km stage from Saint-Gervais.
Having shown cracks in Tuesday’s time trial, Pogacar crumbled on this punishing 28km climb which peaks at 2,304 metres, losing the wheels with eight kilometres to the summit as the time gaps ballooned before the finish.
“I’m gone,” Pogacar told his team on the radio as he watched his rival ride away. “I’m dead.”
The Slovenian trailed Vingegaard by just 10 seconds on Monday’s rest day. When Vingegaard took 98 seconds out of the two-time Tour winner in Tuesday’s time trial it looked massive, but a day later the gap on the road was almost six minutes, the difference overall now seven-and-a-half minutes.
While Pogacar crossed the line taking a consoling arm around the shoulder from team-mate Marc Soler, the usually reserved Vingegaard allowed himself a more vigorous celebration with his team.
With only one mountain stage remaining, as long as the Dane makes it to Paris on Sunday, he will surely win his second consecutive Tour crown.
Having said he was surprised with his own performance on Tuesday, Vingegaard was shocked by the situation 24 hours later.
“Of course we are super, super happy,” he said. “It’s hard to describe. To have more than seven minutes is really incredible.
“Of course the Tour de France is not over. I’m sure Tadej will try something on the last three stages so we have to keep fighting. We’re not in Paris yet.”
Pogacar’s form coming into the Tour had been an open question given his lack of racing since breaking his wrist in April. For two weeks he kept the gap tantalisingly close, but the third week has proven too much.
“I don’t know (what happened),” said Pogacar, who played down a small crash early on the stage. “I tried to eat as much as possible but nothing goes to my legs, it stays in my stomach. I was really empty after three and a half hours, really empty at the bottom.
“If I didn’t have such great support I was thinking I would lose the podium but I was fighting with Marc and I’m grateful to my team-mates…
“I must say today was one of the worst days of my life on the bike but I had to keep fighting to the finish. I hope to recover now and then we can go for another stage on stage 20. I think it’s going to be a good stage if I have good legs.”
As soon as the 24-year-old radioed in his concession, team-mate Adam Yates was told to protect his third place overall and the Lancastrian put time into Carlos Rodriguez to solidify his podium spot, now 76 seconds up on the young Spaniard and three minutes behind Pogacar.
Up ahead, Gall attacked from the remains of a 34-strong breakaway. Simon Yates did his best to chase down the Austrian but could not quite bridge the gap and came in 30 seconds down, his second runner-up finish of the Tour after being beaten by twin brother Adam on stage one in Bilbao.
“I didn’t know the climb but I don’t know if I would change anything,” the Jayco-Alula rider said. “I was wary of the altitude so I tried to pace myself. I think I’ve done a good ride.
“Chapeau to Felix, that was a great ride but I’m pretty happy with my ride.
“It’s a shame I couldn’t win but that’s how it goes.”
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