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Vingegaard hails Pogacar after latest Tour de France skirmish

Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard hailed his rivalry with Tadej Pogacar after surviving the Slovenian’s latest attack to cling on to the overall lead of the Tour de France on the Grand Colombier mountain on Friday.

Vingegaard finished just four seconds behind Pogacar after a sudden late attack that also earned the latter a four-second time bonus. 

That left Dane Vingegaard with a wafer-thin 9sec overall advantage, after a stage won by Polish Ineos Grenadiers rider Michal Kwiatkowski on a breakaway.

At the end of the stage Vingegaard was all smiles, while his Slovenian rival was po-faced despite his latest gain.

Vingegaard explained his mood by referring to the record books.

“In a final like this you can only be happy with how it worked out,” said the 26-year-old.

“History has shown that the Tour rarely gets won by a few seconds,” he said. “Maybe once or twice, maybe here too, who knows, but I don’t think so.”

For once, Vingegaard also opened up about Pogacar after previously insisting he never thinks about him.

“It’s a nice rivalry we have. He’s one of the best, if not the best rider in the world and it’s a nice fight we have going on,” he said. 

Pogacar and UAE set a blistering tempo from about halfway up the Colombier. Vingegaard said his Jumbo-Visma team expected the attack. 

“We knew Team UAE would do this, so we told some of the guys to forget about it and not get involved and this is what happened. So I think our tactics worked well,” said Vingegaard, who has had just one team-mate, Sepp Kuss, with him most of the way.

“It might have looked like I was alone but I never felt like that. I felt my tactics worked.”

“This is how I planned to do it, just held on, that’s our tactics and it suits me fine.”

There are four Alpine stages to come. Two end in summit finishes, one downhill and a there is a potentially decisive individual time-trial after Monday’s rest day.

•          ‘Small victory’ –

Immediately after his explosive efforts had failed to drop Vingegaard, Pogacar looked wiped out for once, but was talking a good fight.

“It’s a start. It was a good day, a small victory but it was worth it,” said Pogacar, who unleashed his attack on the upper reaches of the 17km climb in the Jura mountains.

On the July 14 French national holiday, the fireworks started when Kwiatkowski broke away on the only mountain on the short stage for his second ever Tour win. 

“That was like full-gas racing from the start to the finish,” said the 33-year-old Kwiatkowski.

Behind him, Pogacar tore away after a move from his UAE teammate Adam Yates acted as a foil, breaking first in an attempt to fluster Vingegaard.

At first, it seemed that Vingegaard had been distanced, but he dug deep in the searing heat to limit his losses at the line.

Pogacar preferred to talk about the fans rather than the race.

“It was a great atmosphere. I really enjoyed it, what a show, what an experience,” he said of the hysteria that accompanies the Tour de France mountainside shows.

In the relentless tit-for-tat struggle between the two, Vingegaard struck first on stage five taking over a minute off his main rival to move 53sec ahead. 

But Pogacar, the winner in 2020 and 2021, has clawed nearly all of that back with three of his trademark late attacks.

Saturday’s route from Annemasse to Morzine features around 45km of climbing. 

But the stage also finishes with a downhill dash, a scenario certain to put Gino Maeder’s recent fatal crash firmly in the minds of many in the peloton.

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