Tadej Pogačar is ten seconds down Jonas Vingegaard in the Tour de France general classification in one of the tightest battles for overall victory for years. Yet he appears happy to sit and wait for the final week of the Tour, perhaps even the final stage in the mountains, ready to make fewer but more powerful attacks.
Pogačar recognises that for now, neither he nor Vingegaard has the upper hand physically and psychologically in a rivalry that continues to push both riders to their limits. Only in Paris this time next week will there be a definitive verdict, at least on their physical duel.
“Last year [at the second rest day] I was far behind and maybe wanting too much,” Pogačar admitted. “I was just doing stupid moves. This year is more controlled.
“I am not so far behind time-wise this time, so I’m not throwing all the bombs at once. Maybe just once and doing it 100 percent, so that’s a different situation.”
Last year Pogačar fell foul of to a combination of some well-calculated team tactics from Jumbo-Visma and Vingegaard on superb form. This year, he has faced other issues, including the delay to training and pain from his Liege-Bastogne-Liege scaphoid fracture. He still has some pain in his wrist but is trying to put it aside.
“My legs are good and that’s the most important thing. We’ll see how my wrist is afterwards, and maybe take some rest after the Tour,” he said.
Pogačar and Vingegaard enjoyed the second rest day in the Alps, with his partner Urška Žigart joining the UAE Team Emirates leader for a ride. It seems he finally spent a day apart from Vingegaard.
Their next showdown will be Tuesday’s time trial in the Alpine valley between Passy and Combloux near Sallanches.
More than establishing key differences, Pogacar sees the 22 kilometre hilly race against the clock as a step to the two most decisive mountain stages, on stage 17 over the might Col de la Loze to Courchevel and then stage 20 in the Vosges, finishing on the Markstein climb.
“I have reconned stage 17 and the [stage 16] time trial, but even if I don’t know the Markstein so well, the area is more or less familiar to me,” Pogačar said.
“Wednesday is the hardest day of the Tour on paper, but a lot will depend on how we race stage 20 – that could end up being even tougher. We’ve got three very complicated stages ahead.”
Pogačar denied that there was too much of a psychological war going on between himself and Vingegaard, suggesting…