Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) took complete control of the general classification at the Tour de France on Wednesday as Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) cracked spectacularly on the Col de la Loze, while Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën) soared to his first Tour stage win out of the break.
Gall took the day’s win ahead of Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) with Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) in third. What had been such a close Tour de France GC battle just a few days ago is now a one-horse race as, when all was said and done, Vingegaard had extended his GC lead over Pogačar to a massive 7:35. Third-placed Adam Yates got closer to his UAE teammate Pogačar on the day but is now more than 10 minutes back on the race leader.
- The early goings of the stage featured plenty of action. Notably, Pogačar crashed on an early descent, though he was able to remount quickly and continue on. The fight to get into the break was fierce, with multiple regroupings before a big main group featuring Gall, Yates, Bilbao, and others got clear on the Cormet de Roselend.
- On the slopes of the Col de la Loze, with some 15 km to ride on the stage, Pogačar suddenly dropped out of the dwindling GC group. With his jersey completely unzipped, the two-time winner could not maintain the pace and rapidly lost time. The broadcast would later play audio of Pogačar saying into his radio, “I’m gone. I’m dead.” A sports director then told Yates to push on while Soler dropped back to help Pogačar.
- Gall made his decisive move out of the break at around the same time, surging to a sizable advantage on the steep climb. Simon Yates proved strongest of those chasing him, but Gall was able to hold onto a gap of around 20 seconds for the last few kilometers of the climb, going over the top alone.
- With the help of a stalwart Tiesj Benoot, Vingegaard gradually left one rival after another behind on the slopes of the Col de la Loze until, with 11 km to go, there was no one left to ride with Vingegaard, who proceeded to soar up the steep gradients, picking his way through dropped breakaway riders. He would finish fourth on the day, with huge gaps to all of the GC riders who had not gotten into the break.
- Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën) 4:49:08
- Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) @ 0:34
- Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) @ 1:38
- Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) @ 1:52
- David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) @ 2:09
- Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) 67:57:51
- Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) @ 7:35
- Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) @ 10:45
- Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers) @ 12:01
- Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) @ 12:19
- On the lower slopes of the Col de la Loze, UAE seemed to be in a solid position with several riders around Pogačar, but any hope of the Slovenian making a decisive attack disappeared in a flash as he dropped like a stone out of the group. Whether it was the heat, his crash earlier on in the day, the wrist he broke just a few months ago, a bonk, a simple jour sans, or some combination thereof, Pogačar could not hold the pace.
- All eyes then turned to Adam Yates, but within a few kilometers, he too lost touch. Vingegaard, meanwhile, looked fresh as he zoomed up the climb alone. He continued on to connect with teammate Wilco Kelderman, who had been in the break, and the pair rapidly put more and more time into everyone Vingegaard had left behind. At one point, a traffic jam of race motos and a race vehicle briefly forced Vingegaard and Kelderman to stop, but they were able to get through and continue on without incident.
- Gall’s initial surge would prove decisive for his stage victory. He left his breakaway companions behind with a big dig that propelled him to a lead of half a minute or so, and then Yates left the other chasers behind in pursuit, clawing back some time but not much. From there, the gap settled and hardly changed as Gall powered up and over the highest point in the Tour de France and then held on to the finish.
- Vingegaard’s dominant display put yellow all but out of reach barring a catastrophic crash. The combination of the brutal final climb and a break that featured multiple GC riders also saw significant changes further down the GC standings, with Simon Yates moving up to fifth, Bilbao to sixth, and Gall to eighth overall.
Quotes of the day
In his post-race interview, an emotional Gall needed a moment to put his feelings into words, saying that he was mostly “grateful” for everything that had happened.
“I don’t know what to say. This whole year has been incredible,” said Gall, who took his first WorldTour win last month at the Tour de Suisse. “To do so well in the Tour de France, and to win the queen stage is incredible. I just want to say thank you to the team. They have given me so much.”
Pogačar, meanwhile, gave a blunt assessment of his struggles. Asked to describe how he felt, he simply said, “Fucked.” He went on to note that he had even felt “much better” on last year’s 11th stage at the Tour, where Vingegaard had delivered a decisive blow en route to that year’s win.
“Today was one of my worst days on the bike,” Pogačar said.
- Kristof Ramon and Jered and Ashley Gruber took some spectacular photos during the stage 16 time trial.
- Away from the Tour, rumors continue to swirl around world champion Remco Evenepoel.
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