16 Aug 2022

Tadej Pogacar fights to hang on to the yellow jersey at the Tour de France

Tadej Pogacar fights to hang on to the yellow jersey at the Tour de France

Tadej Pogacar fought to hang on to the yellow jersey as the Tour de France returned from a rest day to be hit by Covid-19 withdrawals and environmental protests on the road.

After a photo finish confirmed Magnus Cort Nielsen as the stage 10 winner ahead of Nick Schultz on the airstrip in Megeve, the question was whether the breakaway’s advantage was enough to put Lennard Kamna into the race lead.

The German, who started the day eight minutes and 43 seconds down, was in a group that started the final climb with a lead of more than nine minutes, but he had to watch on as Pogacar sprinted for the line and hung on by 11 seconds.

Many had speculated a UAE Team Emirates squad hobbled by illness might have been happy to hand over yellow and the responsibilities that come with it going into the next two brutal days, highlighted by Wednesday’s summit finish on the col du Granon, but Pogacar’s late dash seemed to deliver the answer.

The Slovenian’s team were a man down after George Bennett was one of two riders to leave the race due to a positive test for Covid-19 prior to the start, while another team-mate, Rafal Majka, also tested positive but was allowed to continue as he was deemed to not be contagious.

Even with that, it was notable that Pogacar did not ride with his team-mates until the final climb, perhaps deciding it was safer to socially distance himself.

Geraint Thomas, now down to fourth behind Jonas Vingegaard after Kamna’s elevation, later laughed as he said the Ineos Grenadiers avoided following Majka’s wheel, but downplayed any danger the Pole may pose.

The ever-cool Pogacar described the stage as “no stress at all” as he said other teams had done the work to keep him in yellow – perhaps wanting to keep the pressure on in the days ahead.

“On the last climb, many teams began pushing in order to get a good position, the peloton accelerated as a result, and I think that made the difference for me to keep the leadership on the GC,” he said.

“It is not nice to lose team-mates, and I was sad to see George heading home. I hope to survive the next few days. Our motivation is still quite strong and we will keep fighting for the victory.”

It had taken 70 of the day’s 148 kilometres for 25 riders to get clear, and they were quickly allowed a lead big enough to ensure the stage win.

With the break’s buffer over the peloton north of seven minutes Cort Nielsen’s team-mate Alberto Bettiol had been on the attack when protestors from the Derniere Renovation group – who also disrupted Roland-Garros – blocked the road with flares.

After they were dragged to the sides, commissaires restarted the groups according to their time gaps, but the breakaway’s advantage quickly went up to put Kamna in touching distance of yellow.

Bettiol was reeled in amid a series of attacks on the long but hardly steep climb to Megeve, and a group of 10 came down the runway together. Luis Leon Sanchez was the first to open up a sprint but first Schultz and then Cort Nielsen came around to cross the line almost together.

Many of the riders fell to the floor in exhaustion after another hot day in the Alps, with more to come.

The Dane’s victory capped a strange day for EF Education-EasyPost, who had seen their bus get itself stuck at the stage start, blocking access for several other teams before it was freed by a tractor.

“It’s unbelievable,” Cort Nielsen said. “I can’t believe what just happened. I was on the limit for so long on this climb but luckily I had Bettiol who was really strong in the front and that meant I could sit on and save some energy.

“I was losing the group a couple of times in the last kilometres but suddenly it all came back together and I was able to take it in the sprint. It’s huge. For my type of rider it can’t be any bigger than this.”

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