Tadej Pogačar eager to tackle mountain stages after ‘boring’ Tour de France stretch

Having showcased his strength as the yellow jersey contender during the first week’s hilly and mountainous stages of the Tour de France, race leader Tadej Pogačar emerged from the stage 7 time trial unscathed. The Slovenian was expected to lose time to world time trial champion Remco Evenepoel on the 25.3km route from Nuits-Saint-Georges to Gevrey-Chambertin, possibly even relinquishing the race lead altogether. However, he finished with only a 12-second deficit to the Belgian, who has become his closest General Classification (GC) rival through one-third of the race.

Pogačar crossed the finish line in another tiny French village, with the world’s biggest bike race inexplicably packed into it. He quickly drank a beverage handed by his soigneur and prepared for his now-familiar round of post-stage media duties. “Today, we saw some good legs, some good times,” Pogačar said in the press conference. “I can be happy with how the shape is and how much shape is. But we cannot draw any conclusions from today. Most of the Tour is still ahead of us and a lot can happen.”

Rival Performances

Despite losing a dozen seconds to Evenepoel, who now lies 33 seconds off the lead, Pogačar managed to gain time on his other closest rivals. Primož Roglič finished third, 22 seconds down, while Jonas Vingegaard faded on the final run and lost an additional three seconds. Overall, it was a positive day for Pogačar, who now holds a 1:15 lead over Vingegaard and a 1:36 advantage over Roglič. His UAE Team Emirates teammates, Juan Ayuso and João Almeida, follow closely at 2:16 and 2:17 down, respectively.

“I’m happy with how I rode today, how my legs were turning,” Pogačar remarked. “To make time on Jonas and Primož is really good because I know they are in good shape, and I know that in next week’s mountain stages, they will also both be good. For sure, we will see a lot of attacking and interesting racing in the mountains.”

Up Next: Gravel and Hills

Pogačar has the 199km trek through the gravel and hills around Troyes on stage 9 to look forward to before hitting the mountains in the Pyrenees on stage 14 next week. He mentioned his anticipation for the stage, even though the gravel could introduce surprises and unexpected variables. “I’m kind of looking forward to it. I did the recon, so I know what’s waiting for us,” he said. “I would say it’s not the most fun stage, but it depends how we race, depends on the wind, depends on the weather, and depends on what the peloton wants to do.”

“I think there can be a lot of variation in how the race can go, but I think I’m ready for all and let’s see. Normally, I like this kind of stage, but you never know what can happen. Let’s see.”

The Mountains Await

Pogačar is most excited about the late mountain stages, where he feels at home. Summit finishes at Pla d’Adet, the Plateau de Beille, Isola 2000, and the Col de la Couillole are expected to be the real deciders of this year’s maillot jaune. He praised the Tour’s Grande Partenza, expressing his eagerness to return to the Pyrenees and Alps.

“I must say that this year’s Tour de France is a bit strange,” Pogačar commented. “We had a fun first four days, but now this week is a little bit like there’s nothing to look forward to. If there wasn’t a time trial today, then it would be a really boring, strange Tour with flat stages where nobody wants to go in the breakaway.

“Tomorrow is another stressful day, then another stressful day, then it’s a rest day, then it’s another stressful day, another stressful day. And then we slowly enter the mountains. Right now, I’m feeling quite great, and I cannot wait to finally hit the proper mountains.”

Main photo credit: ASO – Billy Ceusters