Two races, two teams, two stage winners – and two Tour de France contenders.
Tadej Pogacar and Richard Carapaz set a benchmark in their preparation races ahead of the Tour de France on Thursday. Reigning Tour champion Pogačar claimed a 22km solo victory on the Tour of Slovenia roads, and hours later Ineos Grenadiers wildcard Carapaz made a dazzling move to take control of the Tour de Swiss.
Just over two weeks before the Tour, the two heartbreaking rides fired a warning shot over the heads of Primož Roglič and Geraint Thomas.
Pogacar and UAE Emirates strangled a disappointing start sheet in Thursday’s stage to give Pogacar the stage victory and leader’s jersey.
– @ UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) June 10, 2021
“The team did a very good job. Matteo [Trentin] was pulling all day like a motorbike and Rui [Oliveira] leading to the super steep climb. And then on the climb, everyone was really strong, ”said Pogacar. “I’m really proud of everyone and it’s a very good sign going into the Tour. “
Read also : Pogačar reverses the scenario and runs to Slovenia
UAE-Team Emirates only had four WorldTour teams to face in Slovenia, and the team’s Tour de France-lite formation was ruthlessly effective with Diego Ulissi, Matteo Trentin and Rafal Majka controlling all pursuers after Pogacar broke free. .
Pogacar’s 1:22 margin of victory showed that he clearly had lost no time in his six-week stoppage since his victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. And it looks like his teammates have worked as hard as they seem to shake off doubts about the team’s ability to dictate the game like Ineos Grenadiers or Jumbo Visma have done in the past.
Carapaz is riding towards France in an entirely different situation from that of Pogacar. The Ecuadorian is one of the many cards in an impressive Tour des Ineos Grenadiers deck. Running alongside Tao Geoghegan Hart, Richie Porte and 2018 champion Thomas, he will be part of a team with the weight to ride through the field.
.@RichardCarapazM played cool in the sprint for our 26th win of the season.
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) June 10, 2021
Carapaz’s late move to bridge the gap with stage leader Jakob Fuglsang in the last 4 kilometers of the difficult mountain stage on Thursday showed all the offensive pace that marked him as one of the most successful riders. aggressive artillery of Ineos.
Read also : Can Thomas transform Ineos Grenadiers’ offensive strategy into Tour de France glory?
Thomas was slated for the leader’s armband on the Tour, and it’s unclear whether the team will return to type with their old-fashioned ‘mountain train’ – a tactic well suited to Thomas’ big engine – or will opt for its brand new attack strategy. If it turns out that it is the latter, it is Carapaz who has shown the verve to go shoulder to shoulder with Pogacar and his unpredictable forest fire.
“We came here thinking about preparing for the Tour,” Carapaz said on Thursday. “Of course we wanted to try and win that. We know the main goal is the Tour, but if we can win it is good.
After having achieved a solid time trial on Sunday, Carapaz takes the leader’s jersey with a timeout of 26 seconds on Fuglsang. It could prove difficult to dislodge in the last two mountain stages and the hilly TT of the race.
” I am very happy. It’s something we’ve been working on all week. We wanted of course to think about the general classification and the possibility of winning a stage was there. I did both, so I’m happy, ”Carapaz said.
“We were thinking about the general classification. I did my perfect attack and that’s it.
Like Carapaz, it is hard to see Pogačar being dislodged from his race leader’s jersey in the next three days in Slovenia
“It’s my first Tour of Slovenia victory, I’ve been there three times,” he said. “I really like this stage – it’s a Tour of Slovenia classic and I’m really happy to take the victory in front of my home crowd. I look forward to the next few days.
Thomas and Roglič will closely follow the races in Switzerland and Slovenia. Their two closest rivals – and teammates – appear to be in good shape just in time.