The Tour de France isn’t won and done, according to Jumbo-Visma team management, who won’t discount the threat that Tadej Pogačar poses until the final stage to Paris is over.
The Tour resumed on Tuesday with a hilly 22.4km time trial from Passy to Combloux the result of which seemed to surprise all the heavyweights.
Pogačar thought he’d be in the yellow jersey at the end of the day, but it was defending champion Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) who annihilated the field, taking the stage honours and increasing his race lead on Pogačar from 10 seconds to 1:48.
“I’m surprised not by Jonas because we expected more or less a big result like this in time let’s say, but we did not expect such a big advantage compared to Pogačar because this is what he can do, this is his specialty,” Jumbo-Visma managing director Richard Plugge said post-race.
Vingegaard has over the past week repeatedly said that this year’s Tour de France would not be decided by the seconds that up until Tuesday separated him and Pogačar, rather by minutes.
Before the time trial that seemed doubtful, with the pair evenly matched amid suggestions that momentum was gathering in Pogačar’s favour, but the Dane’s blistering time trial sharply pushed back the pendulum swing.
“He was very much motivated, as if he had the feeling, I’m second and I need to fight back to him, I need to catch him,” Plugge said of Vingegaard’s mentality.
“And that really made him strong. He almost caught him literally, so that was really good.”
Jumbo-Visma staff were scattered all along the road past the finish line and were jubilant but clear that the job was not yet done. Stage 17 on Wednesday includes the highest point of this year’s Tour – the Col de la Loze. The penultimate stage in the Vosges also provides opportunities for Pogačar to potentially bounce back, as he did in the Pyrenees.
Plugge said Vingegaard’s stage win and healthy advantage on the general classification was a “big relief”, but the team isn’t relaxing yet.
“Pogačar is like the Germans as we say in Holland, with football, you only beat them when they are in the bus back home,” Plugge said. “We are only celebrating when he [Vingegaard] is in Paris in the bus and he’s [Pogačar’s] back to Ljubljana, and then we are sure.
“He will fight back and that makes him one of the nicest competitors.
“This generation, they keep fighting and we are prepared to fight obviously.”