PEYRAGUDES, France ( Associated Press) – Tadej Pogakar claimed his third stage victory on Wednesday as he sought the final climb of a Pyrenees Tour from Jonas Winggaard, but the lead opened by the Tour de France overall leader was significantly cut. were unable to cut through. ,
As has been the pattern on this tour, the two overtook the rest and came face to face in the brutal final kilometer of stage 17 – at the top of the Paraguads.
Once Brandon McNulty – Pogakar’s teammate who carried his leader with dedication throughout the day – was off the hook, it was time for one last fight at the heights.
On the steep ramp to finish, Pogakar covered 300 metres. The wingguard responded without issue, but the champions of the previous two editions had the last word with their shot which allowed them to cross first, with the wingguard stepping on the wheel.
With barely a hilly podium left and with the individual time trial ahead of the Paris procession on Sunday, Wingguard is beating his first Tour victory.
But Pogakar hasn’t lost hope.
“I am optimistic that I can still win the Tour,” said the 23-year-old Slovenian. “Tomorrow will be a much more difficult phase, we will try again.”
Since a fateful day in the Alps in which he handed over the leader’s yellow jersey to the wingguard, Pogakar has repeatedly launched attacks but has not been able to make up for lost time against his opponent.
Pogakar’s UAE-Emirates team has been reduced to a number of casualties in its ranks. On Wednesday, Rafael Majka left the place due to a muscle injury. The group had already lost George Bennett, Vagard Steck Langen and Mark Soler.
“The way the team competed with just four riders to win the stage was incredible,” Pogakar said. “We should all be proud of what we have done. Nothing else could have been done without Raphael, George, Vagard and Soler. We will see tomorrow if we have another chance”.
Pogakar’s last chance to put pressure on the jumbo-visma leader in the mountains will be on Thursday in the final leg in the Pyrenees. The segment will start at Lourdes and end at Hautacam.
After that, his last chance to shake up the race will be on Saturday with the time trial, a method in which he is most dominant on paper.
With his three stage victories this year, Pogakar has a total of nine on the Tour.
Wingguard was second only to Pogakar last year. The Dane has displayed a formidable level since starting in Copenhagen and for the fifteenth time he showed no cracks by managing a route with four climbs.
McNulty completed 130 kilometers (80.8 mi) and finished third, 32 seconds behind the two leaders.
With a bonus time awarded to the winner of a stage, Pogakar cut time by four seconds from the wingguard, who leads in the general classification with a difference of 2 minutes and 18 seconds.
The 2018 Tour champion, Geraint Thomas, climbed to third place overall in 4:56.
Colombian Nairo Quintana is fourth in the general classification, 7:53 behind the leader.