Tadej Pogacar concedes defeat at Tour de France as Felix Gall claims stage 17

By Sports Desk July 19, 2023 464

Tadej Pogacar conceded defeat to Jonas Vingegaard in the fight for yellow as Felix Gall beat Simon Yates to victory on stage 17 of the Tour de France in Courchevel.

While Gall and Yates fought out stage honours from the breakaway, the overall battle in this Tour was effectively decided on the mighty Col de la Loze, the highest mountain of this year’s race, at the end of this 166km stage from Saint-Gervais.

Having shown cracks in Tuesday’s time trial, Pogacar crumbled on this punishing 28km climb, losing the wheels still with eight kilometres remaining to the summit as he watched his rivals ride away without even needing to attack, the time gaps ballooning before the finish.

“I’m gone,” Pogacar told his team on the radio as he watched his rival ride away. “I’m dead.”

The Slovenian, involved in a minor crash at the start of the stage, had trailed Vingegaard by just 10 seconds on Monday’s rest day.

When Vingegaard took 98 seconds out of the two-time Tour winner in Tuesday’s time trial it looked massive, but a day later the gap on the road was almost six minutes, the difference overall now seven-and-a-half minutes.

While Pogacar crossed the line taking a consoling arm around the shoulder from team-mate Marc Soler, the usually reserved Vingegaard allowed himself a more vigorous celebration with his team. As long as the Dane makes it to Paris on Sunday, he will surely win his second consecutive Tour.

Pogacar’s form coming into the Tour had been an open question given his lack of racing since breaking his wrist in April. For two weeks he had kept the gap at the top tantalisingly close, but the third week has proven too much.

As soon as the 24-year-old radioed in his concession, his team-mate Adam Yates was told to ride on in order to protect his third place overall, and the Lancastrian put time into Carlos Rodriguez to solidify his podium spot, now 76 seconds up on the young Spaniard and three minutes behind Pogacar.

Up ahead, Gall had attacked from the remains of a 33-strong breakaway that had, for much of the day, been as big as what counted as the peloton. Simon Yates did his best to chase down the Austrian but could not quite bridge the gap and came in 30 seconds down.

It was a second runner-up finish of the Tour for Simon Yates, who was narrowly beaten by his twin brother Adam on the opening stage in Bilbao. His consolation prize this time was moving up from eighth to fifth overall.

Gall, making his Tour debut, delivered a first win of this year’s race for the AG2R Citroen team, having unexpectedly taken over the leadership role within the squad after Ben O’Connor’s overall ambitions faded in the first week.

“I don’t know what to say,” the 25-year-old said. “This whole year has been incredible and now to do so well in the Tour and to win the queen stage it’s incredible. I just want to say thank you to the team, they have given me so much.

“It’s not easy to do a three-week stage race and then to also have the role of leader after a few days, I slowly focused on that and I was stressing myself about that, it’s not easy but the last few days I’ve been more comfortable. I was afraid I would be caught in the last kilometre but it’s incredible.”

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Last modified on Wednesday, 19 July 2023 12:01
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