Vingegaard-Pogacar and the missed duel on the Col de la Loze in the Tour de France

Vingegaard-Pogacar and the missed duel on the Col de la Loze in the Tour de France

In Courchevel Felix Gall wins, Giulio Ciccone is more polka dot. The highest climb of the Grande Boucle had to be the Stade Tata Raphaël in Kinshasa of the great challenge between the yellow jersey and his rival. The Slovenian's crisis upset plans and also left the Dane less happy

The Col de la Loze it is a strange, multiform beast that cannot be tamed, only indulged in the hope that it won't hurt too much. He was the big attraction of the seventeenth stage, also of the Tour de France. More than twenty-five kilometers long, the last ones cruel as misery: climbs with awkward ramps, sometimes very steep, sometimes a little less, still steep. It was the highest climb, the only big climb with the Col du Tourmalet, the high stage where to stage the great show of the duel of duels, the one for the yellow jersey. On one side Jonas Vingegaard, on the other Tadej Pogacar, as if it were Stade Tata Raphaël in Kinshasa. There was a lot of waiting, amplified if possible by the burst of one minute and thirty-eight given by the first to the second. Rematch is always seductive, the temptation to fall into the epic upset was enormous. Cycling is a revolutionary sport for revolutionaries, or at least that's how it was in the beginning, who knows now.

Col de la Loze is a strange, multifaceted beast. It appeared one day in August at the Tour de l'Avenir, in short the Grande Boucle for young people. It didn't exist before and not only in the geography of the Tour de France, in geography in general. It was part mule track and part ski slope, it has become the highest cycle path in France.

There was no road that went up to the Col de la Loze, not at least for the last five kilometres. There was not even the big duel of this Tour de France. Tadej Pogacar broke away before the road reared up. He left Jonas Vingegaard alone to put on the big play. The yellow jersey was given, in his own way, by the usual: powerful, elegant, sinuous. Lonely though, for this less happy.

Jonas Vingegaard was happy upon arrival. Happy but not happy. Not like he wanted to be at least. Because it's one thing to detach your opponent, another to see him detach when the lieutenants were still ahead and the pace was high but it could have been worse.

Jonas Vingegaard is not the expansive type, he is reserved, of few words, sometimes gloomy. He is not one who lets himself go to jubilation, not even today that the Tour de France is much more than he was yesterday: Pogacar is now at 7'35 ", Adam Yates at 10'45". In his eyes there was the satisfaction of someone who had made it, but veiled by the small regret of not having done it as he would have liked, as if the absence of that other had taken something away from him. His companions smiled more as they embraced him, they were so happy, certain that it is now done, that there is no one left, if not bad luck, who can change things.

Jonas Vingegaard did not express the overwhelmed and engaging happiness of Felix Gall, first to cross the finish line in his first Tour de France. The Austrian had set off from Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc with one goal: to hit the day's breakaway. He knew it could be a good opportunity. He knew he was fine, he had said it yesterday: "It's only the second race of three weeks I'm doing, but my legs are fine, better now than the first stages". He hoped he could continue like this. It went even better than he could think. When he accelerated in the first ramps of the road that he wasn't there he was left alone. With him were neither Simon Yates, nor Rafal Majka, nor Pello Bilbao, nor David Gaudu, all people with a much longer and more prestigious pedigree than his. Also because his opinion is quite sparse: “I understood late that I could be a valid rider. In reality, the technicians made it clear to me ”, he had said at the beginning of the year. Giulio Ciccone wasn't there either, who did his utmost in sprints and rhythm to accumulate as many polka dots as possible to apply to his best climber's jersey. He succeeded, he will bring it another day. He pulled away from Jonas Vingegaard and Neilson Powless, but he found himself against Felix Gall and he hadn't taken that into account. Felix Gall has never gone too far in this Tour de France. Felix Gall, on the other hand, has always been there, he has always played his part. Even today, when he fled and accelerated up the Col de la Loze and after accelerating he turned around, saw the void, tripped over an astonished expression, then sewed a relieved one on himself, finally ran out of expressions: just a grin of suffering. He wore it for a long time, right up to the last meters of the stage. Only there, under the arrival banner, did he transform it into a smile.

Photo ASO/Pauline Ballet

The same failed for Tadej Pogacar. He had guessed that it wasn't day since the morning: a touch on the wheel of whoever was in front of him and down on the ground. The day continued even worse. As the kilometers of the Col de la Loze passed, the corners of his mouth suffered the ever heavier weight of gravity, his gaze was clouded by fatigue and sorrow. Tadej Pogacar had never seen himself like this, not even last year climbing towards the Col du Granon, the one of the crisis and the great team and Vingegaard feat. Even that day he had flashes of serenity. Not today. Today marked storm, disillusionment.

Tadej Pogacar did everything possible to be at the Tour de France: two races in his legs, a broken scaphoid in April. He did everything possible and much more than possible in the race. Perhaps he too had deluded himself that he could continue to do so. And illusion is an even more strange beast than the Col de la Loze. Yesterday in the twenty-two kilometers time trial Jonas Vingegaard chipped his castle, today he came down and thundering. And the roar in a mountain valley is heard much more, it makes an impression.

Tour de France 17th stage. The order of arrival and the general classification

Source link