Tadej Pogacar turns the screw with thrilling stage seven win at Tour de France

Tadej Pogacar won a thrilling, agonising finish to stage seven atop the brutal Super Planche des Belles Filles, as the reigning Tour de France champion made another major statement in his quest for a third successive yellow jersey.

Pogacar (UAE Emirates) gradually came to the front of the peloton as it hunted down the breakaway, rider by rider, on a 177km route from Nancy to La Planche in the Vosges Mountains, until his teammate Rafal Majka moved aside and waved his leader through to chase the only rider left ahead with 800m to go, German 25-year-old Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe).

With the finish line in sight and a wild crowd urging him through a corridor of noise, Kamna seemed set to crawl home to a hard-earned victory, having launched a solo bid for home on the final climb. Yet the painfully steep finale to La Planche, up high where the asphalt road turns to gravel track, takes a toll, a price too high for a heartbroken Kamna who was overtaken in the final 100m by Pogacar trailing his fiercest rival, last year’s runner-up Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).

Vingegaard kicked hard and with barely 10 metres remaining he led a creeping ‘sprint’ finish, grinding his tyres into the dirt as he tried desperately to haul himself over the line, all playing out as if in slow-motion. Then came the relentless Pogacar, a luminous yellow juggernaut passing barely a bike length from the finish and glancing back over his shoulder as if to ask the Dane whether he could respond. Vingegaard’s head dropped as Pogacar raised a triumphant fist in celebration.

This climb has become a modern classic of the Tour de France and it was where the prodigious Pogacar took hold of the 2020 edition. History rhymed two years on, and the increase in his overall race lead to 35 seconds was secondary to the psychological blow of withstanding and ultimately crushing Vingegaard’s gutsy assault.

“It was really, really difficult, especially in the end, the last part when Jonas attacked,” Pogacar said afterwards. “He was so strong. My boys were working all day so I had to push to the finish line, especially with my family at the bottom of the climb. We have launched a new foundation today for cancer research and I wore special shoes for it, and so I really wanted to win. It was in my mind already since the route was [announced] and it was a big goal to win today.”

The peloton moves through the town of Rambervillers


Pogacar has now won the past two stages not necessarily because he needed to but because he wanted to, and he has the look of a man who will not be denied a historic third crown, no matter the strength and depth of teams like Jumbo-Visma or Ineos, who have four riders inside the top 10 after Geraint Thomas and co did well to keep pace for most of the final ascent.

With the Alps and Pyrenees still to come this race is far from over, though it will take something extraordinary over the next two weeks. But Vingegaard did take time from Pogacar in the highest mountains last year, and the champion took care to praise his rival at the finish. “For sure [Vingegaard is strong]. Right now he is one of the strongest climbers in the world, probably the best in the world, with a strong team around him.”

Vingegaard’s teammate Primoz Roglic finished third, though he remains almost three minutes down on Pogacar overall after dislocating his shoulder on stage six. Then came a devastated Kamna (who wasn’t even compensated with the most combative rider award, given to fellow breakawayer Simon Geschke) in fourth, before Thomas in fifth.

Thomas’s Ineos teammates Adam Yates, Dani Martinez and Tom Pidcock (wearing the best young rider’s white jersey by virtue of Pogacar already wearing yellow) were not far behind and they are all within two minutes of Pogacar overall, with Thomas third in the standings at 1 min 10 sec back.

“It’s good that we’re all there just going into the next two days and the next two weeks as well,” Thomas said afterwards. “We haven’t even done a proper mountain stage yet! We’re all in there, and we’ll try to use those numbers not just attacking for the hell of it but trying to use those numbers and we’ll see what we can do.”

There are two more days before the second rest day of the Tour: the first is a hilly road to Lausanne, the second an arrival in the Alps with some category one mountain climbs en route to Chatel. While Saturday could be one for the breakaway, Sunday looks primed for Pogacar once more. His rivals carry multiple threats but Pogacar is more dangerous than anyone, and on this evidence he may yet dish out more punishment before the week is out.

Leave a Comment