The yellow jersey won the Combloux time trial with a 1'38" lead over Pogacar and almost three minutes over van Aert. Has he already won the Grande Boucle? No. He only expanded the fun. Now teasing isn't enough, a revolution is needed a stroke of madness
The look was the same for both: lost in the void, confused as only fatigue, the one so intense that it can break your breath and make your legs soft like butter kept out of the fridge for too long, can do. They looked around and saw nothing, scattered colors, those of the crowd, of their people, masseurs, trusted men. They were different eyes. Those of Jonas Vingegaard glittered, those of Tadej Pogacar tended towards gloom. Those of Jonas Vingegaard continued to shine, those of Tadej Pogacar slowly turned to light. Even when the Slovenian went to compliment his rival they were different. He thought it was all over, he realized it wasn't, or at least he tried to convince himself of this. It takes an effort of optimism to think so. That's a lot, a lot of 98 seconds. Especially if taken in just over twenty-two kilometres. Especially if taken in a time trial that if not a friend could not be a rival. Tadej Pogacar ran it brilliantly: keeping Wout van Aert behind by more than a minute means going fast, very fast. It wasn't enough. Jonas Vingegaard pedaled better, much better: he went faster downhill, flat, uphill. He won the stage, widening the gap a lot. He broke the toy he had built with his opponent for two weeks, that top that first turned towards him, then towards the other, before starting to rotate exactly halfway between them. There is no longer that top, Jonas Vingegaard kicked it and interrupted the vortex.
He imposed a new game, he chose it. That doesn't mean it's worse. On the contrary. The new scenario imposed by Jonas Vingegaard is an amplification of the pleasure of a race that never follows a linear plot, which is a succession of surreal events, in the literal sense of the term: an event that goes beyond the dimension of sensible reality, which evokes the dream world. Now teasing is banned, only imagination will be needed, perhaps a lot of madness. Or at least that's the feeling. Why Jonas Vingegaard doesn't want to be fooled after having raised the gap on Tadej Pogacar to 1'48” and Tadej Pogacar has a mad desire to break the toy that Jonas Vingegaard has chosen for the last week.
However, the will is not everything. Tadej Pogacar himself said it on the eve: “I see that Jonas is fine, he looks good, he doesn't seem too nervous. More than our heads, I think everything will depend on our legs". He talked about the time trial, he talked about the remaining stages. Two will be tough. First of all, tomorrow's one which will lead to Courchevel via the Col de la Loze, 2,300 meters above sea level: they have almost never exceeded 2,000 meters in this Tour de France. The last chance will be on Saturday, in the Vosges with the Petit Ballon and the Col du Platzerwasel as the last appeals. In no stage will the finish line be at the end of the last climb.
In between there are two stages that could be quiet, at least for those two, the usual two. The one on Thursday for sure, the one on Friday who knows. Poligny is a city of great cold and great heat, of enormous follies. In the mid-13th and 15th centuries hundreds and hundreds of exorcists were called there twice by the prior of Notre-Dame de Vaux-sur-Poligny because the devil had taken possession of most of the citizens.
Jonas Vingegaard hopes that all this doesn't happen again, he hopes that his time trial performance was also a blow to his opponent's morale. It will hardly happen. Tadej Pogacar has shown over the years that he feels almost a subtle pleasure in being beaten and after each blow he has found strength that he thought he didn't have. However, this slap was strong, the Slovenian staggered. Also because he kept everyone behind and with a lot of margin, but the other did better. Of course the hand that was broken in Liège-Bastogne-Liège still bothers him, the condition could have been better, above all he doesn't know how much sap he still has left. Maybe that's also why he was surprised after arriving to see how much he had lost.
Even Jonas Vingegaard was surprised by how much he earned. He said it with surprising simplicity: "I'm surprised at myself, I didn't think I went so fast". We are not surprised that he was surprised. It always happens like this when you redefine yourself. And Jonas Vingegaard redefined himself today: we had seen him to be the best climber around, now he too is establishing himself as the best time trial man, if not overall, at least in the course of a stage race.
He managed to fan himself and rattle and knock down what was sown in two weeks. What they failed to do 2,610.7 kilometers they made 2,240 meters. And now that everything is different, he too looks around in search of a crossroads by which to orient himself. He won't be long, we're sure of it.