In an intense display of skill and strategy, Tadej Pogacar reclaimed the yellow jersey in the Tour de France on Tuesday after giving it up on yesterday’s stage. By conquering the Col du Galibier and showcasing his descending skills he gained time on his rivals. The Slovenian rider launched his attack near the top of the climb, leaving behind his chief rival Jonas Vingegaard and securing his 12th career stage win at the Tour.

“This was more or less the plan and we executed it truly well,” Pogacar said post-race. “I wanted to hit hard today. I know this stage really well. I’ve been training here for many days. It felt like a home stage.”

Starting in Pinerolo, Italy, and finishing in Valloire, the 140-kilometre route featured two category-two climbs before the gruelling ascent to the Galibier. As the riders tackled the Galibier, the roads were slick from melting snow banks, adding a layer of complexity to the already challenging descent.

Pogacar, demonstrating full confidence, hit speeds of nearly 90 kph (56 mph) coming down from the 2,642-metre (8,668-foot) Col du Galibier, opening up a nearly one-minute gap on Vingegaard. “I know the downhill but I was a little bit surprised to see a wet road in the first few corners. So it was a little bit scary,” he admitted.

Vingegaard, the defending champion, did his best to limit the damage but finished 37 seconds behind Pogacar. The Dane now sits third in the general classification, 50 seconds adrift of Pogacar.

“Let’s not forget that Vingegaard had a very bad crash three months ago and in the descent maybe the last bit of confidence is still not there,” noted Grischa Niermann, the sports director for Vingegaard’s Visma team. “Bike racing is also downhill, not only uphill.”

Tour rookie Remco Evenepoel, the Vuelta and world champion in 2022, finished second in the stage, 35 seconds behind Pogacar, with Pogacar’s UAE teammate Juan Ayuso taking third.

The stage was marked by aggressive tactics from UAE Team Emirates, setting a blistering pace on the Galibier, which saw several contenders, including previous leader Richard Carapaz, dropped. With 800 metres to go, Pogacar attacked, gaining a significant advantage over Vingegaard and maintaining his lead during the descent.

“You need really big balls to ride on the front like we did today,” Pogacar concluded in the post-stage press conference. “For sure, we showed today that we have one of the strongest teams here. It’s super crazy to ride like we did today and we did a super amazing job. We need to continue like this and be happy.”

Pogacar’s performance follows an impressive season, having won four of the five races he entered before the Tour, including prestigious trophies at the Giro d’Italia, Strade Bianche, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He aims for the rare Giro-Tour double, last achieved by Marco Pantani in 1998, and his third Tour title after wins in 2020 and 2021.

Primoz Roglic crossed the line fourth, followed by Vingegaard in fifth. “The 50 seconds behind Pogacar in the general classification are playable,” Vingegaard remarked after the stage. “We know what we are doing. We believe in our plan.”

The high-speed descent to Valloire proved decisive, with Pogacar extending his lead over Vingegaard, who cautiously navigated the descent following his high-speed crash in April. The Galibier, a 23-kilometre climb at an average gradient of 5.1%, lived up to its reputation as a decisive battleground in the Tour.

As the peloton crossed back into France after the opening stages in Italy, Pogacar established a 45-second lead over Evenepoel and a 50-second advantage over Vingegaard. With the next stage set to be a less challenging 177-kilometre leg from Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne to Saint-Vulbas, the Tour’s first individual time trial looms on Friday, promising further excitement in the battle for the yellow jersey.

2024 Tour de France Stage 4 result

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All photo credits: ASO – Charly Lopez