Tadej pogacar dealt a demoralizing blow to his remaining Tour de France rivals in the first day in the alps, where the defending champion claimed the yellow jersey in Saturday’s grueling eighth stage.
Pogacar reinforced his bet to retain his touring title after proving once again to be one step above the rest in the most demanding climbs. The 22-year-old Slovenian started only in the fourth of the five categorized climbs, shedding Richard Carapaz, the last man, and possible contender, who remained behind the wheel.
“In the end I felt great, so before the last two climbs I said to my teammates, ‘Let’s try to shake up the race,'” Pogacar said.
Pogacar finished the 150.8 kilometer (93.7 mile) hike over five mountain passes from Oyonnax to Le Grand-Bornand in fourth place, seconds behind stage winner Dylan Teuns.
Teuns, a Belgian rider from the Bahrain team, managed to retain a slight lead over tough Pogacar at the last peak before negotiating the tricky descent to the finish line.
Mathieu van der Poel gave up the lead he had held for six days when he vanished almost halfway through the brutal stage, finishing more than 20 minutes after the winner.
Van der Poel, 20 minutes after the winner
Wout van Aert stayed in second place but fell from 30 seconds behind at the start of the stage to 1 minute, 48 seconds behind Pogacar.
Carapaz finished more than three minutes behind Pogacar and the Ecuadorian is now five minutes behind the overall in fifth place..
The peloton was in poor shape to hold out in the mountains after an accident-filled opening week and Friday’s 155-mile (249-kilometer) marathon. The longest leg of the tour in 21 years had exhausted all but a handful of riders, including Pogacar. And more pain awaited in the Alps.
In a harbinger of things to come, several riders were already fighting from the start. The brief ascent in a light rain heading into the alpine forest tore the package to pieces.
Geraint Thomas, who won in 2018, was soon left behind. Primoz Roglic quickly followed suit and his Jumbo Visma team left last year’s runner-up sadly alone.. Both pre-race title contenders, who had fallen in the first week, were completely disengaged even before the major promotions began.
Pogacar timed his devastating attack until the ascent of the category one Col de Romme.
While other riders were hunched over the handlebars, Pogacar rode high, rising from his seat to speed up the ascent in search of the handful of runaway riders.
Proving once again that you don’t need much help from your Emirates team, Pogacar traveled the last 30 kilometers above the Col de la Colombiere category one on his own.
Pogacar had lost a large chunk of the time he had gained in the time trial earlier this week during Friday’s walk, finishing fifth overall, 3:43 off the pace. He made that up and something else after letting it rip through slick mountain roads in the rain, reinforcing his position as the clearing favorite.
On Sunday, the cyclists face a second day in the mountains with a 145-kilometer (90-mile) ride in four passes before reaching the summit at Tignes.