Vingeard follows Pogacar to keep control of the Tour de France

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FOIX, France, July 19 (Reuters) – Tadej Pogacar went on the offensive as promised but was never able to unseat Tour de France leader Jonas Vingaard on the first of three key mountain stages on Tuesday.

The defending champion attacked twice on the climb to Port de Lers (11.4km at 7%) and once on the descent, but the yellow jersey Vingegaard followed him to maintain his lead of two minutes and 22 seconds.

The stage was won by Hugo Houle, the first Canadian to win the Tour since Steve Bauer in 1988, in the day’s breakaway after the Israel Premier Tech rider went solo on the final climb, punishing him Mur de Peguere (9.4 km at 7.9%).

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Houle didn’t look back on the long descent to Foix to edge Frenchman Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) and his compatriot and Israel Premier Tech teammate Michael Woods, second and third respectively, one minute and 10 seconds behind. for his first professional victory.

In the group of favourites, Pogacar’s brutal first attack some 2.5km from the top of Port de Lers caught Vingaard off guard, but the Dane held him back almost effortlessly.

He stayed in the wheel of the Slovenian when the 23-year-old left as the yellow jersey group was reduced to a dozen riders.

“We have a strong team. Luckily today I was able to follow Pogacar but we have to take it day by day,” said Vingaard, who showed no ill effects from a crash during the previous stage on Sunday.

“I don’t feel that my form is deteriorating. I am recovering very well from a big lap. The rest day was necessary after the accident. I am looking forward to the next few days.

“I just try to do my best every day. I know Tadej will attack me so every day is just about trying to keep up with him and of course there are also a lot of other riders that I have to follow if they attack.”

Far behind, one of Pogacar’s main team-mates, Marc Soler, was dropped after suffering roadside illness and the Spaniard finished outside the time limit, leaving the UAE team down to five riders.

BARDET CRACKS

Pogacar’s final attack attempt came just after the riders started their descent but again Vingaard easily covered the move.

In the ascent to the Mur de Peguere, Pogacar’s teammate in the United Arab Emirates, Rafal Majka, set a fast pace to further reduce the group, but the Pole’s chain broke and he had to give way to Sepp Kuss, teammate of Jumbo Visma from Vingaard.

The American climber imposed a blistering pace which prevented Pogacar from attacking again as Geraint Thomas, the 2018 champion, was dropped, as well as Romain Bardet who had started the day in fourth place overall.

Thomas closed the gap on the descent after holding on on the climb but Bardet had long since disappeared from his rear view mirror.

The Frenchman lost almost all hope of finishing on the podium in Paris on Sunday by slipping to ninth place overall, after losing 3:36.

“My head was pounding. I couldn’t do anything. Without my teammates (DSM) I wouldn’t have finished the stage,” Bardet said.

“I didn’t see it coming.”

Overall, Thomas is still third, 2h43 behind Vingegaard.

Colombian Nairo Quintana, a two-time Tour runner-up, moved into fourth place, 4:15 off the pace, with Frenchman David Gaudu dropping to fifth place nine seconds behind.

The general classification could still be shaken up on Wednesday when the 17th stage takes the peloton for a 130 km race between Saint Gaudens and Peyragudes with three brutal climbs.

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Reporting by Julien Pretot; edited by Pritha Sarkar

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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