HAUTACAM, France ( Associated Press) — Barring an accident, Jonas Winggaard will be wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour de France finish in Paris on Sunday.
The wingguard responded to a series of attacks from defending champion Tadej Pogakar on Thursday and finally shook off his main opponent in the final big mountain stage of this year’s race to extend his lead by three minutes and 26 seconds.
With only one major test, the 41-kilometre (25.5-mile) time trial scheduled for Saturday, the Dane and Jumbo-Visma leader are sure of their first Tour title since arriving at the Hautakam campus on a bill of their own.
“Unbelievable. This morning I told my girlfriend and my daughter that I wanted to win the stage for them. I am happy and proud to have won for them,” Winggaard said. “I need to stay focused and keep taking it day by day. I don’t want to talk about winning the Tour right now. Let’s talk about it in two days.”
Two-time defending champion Pogakar grabbed every opportunity and fell down the hill as he tried relentlessly to isolate the wingguard. Back on his bike, Pogakar fell with almost four kilometers to go on the final climb, dashing his hopes of winning a third consecutive title.
“I risked everything for the yellow jersey,” Pogakar said. “I didn’t give up, I went over my limits and I’m proud of today. The best man won today.”
Winggaard rode alone to claim his second Tour victory, conquering the Col du Granon in the Alps last week, the day he took control of the race. Pogakar crossed the finish line more than a minute behind Wingegaard.
The final major mountain stage of this year’s race started off to a thrilling start with a series of strikes outside the city of Lourdes.
The Wingguard Jumbo-Visma team managed to add the powerful and versatile Vout van Aert to the day’s breakaway. By sending the versatile Belgian to the front, the mighty Dutch team made sure he was available later on stage to set the pace for the wingguard.
And it was actually Van Aert who lost control to Pogakar at his frantic pace on the last climb. Van Aert completed the podium.