The terrain is a bit more expensive on Stage 17, however, and the summit finish on the mighty Col du Portet should finally provide some degree of separation in the close battle for the podium, although it remains to be seen. if anyone can make a dent in Pogacar’s overall lead at 5:18.Vingegaard (3rd at 5:32 am) at least dealt a scathing blow to the aura of the yellow jersey with his scathing attack at the top of Mont Ventoux during the 11th stage, even if the long descent to the finish destroyed his lead . Since then, mind you, Pogacar has seemed remarkably comfortable repelling attacks in Andorra on Sunday, and his air of invulnerability seems somewhat restored before the last pair of Tour summit finishes in the Pyrenees.
Aside from the late forcing of Wout van Aert, there was little thrill among the overall men on Tuesday’s hike from Andorra to Col de Porte, Col de la Core and Col de Portet- of Aspet. In a most arduous Tour, it seems clear that many minds were already drawn to the horrors to come on stages 17 and 18. Even Wout Poels, so aggressive in his pursuit of the polka dot jersey, missed the breakaway on Tuesday. “I was able to save my legs for the next two days,” he said.
Everything is relative, of course. This Tour has been particularly attritional, and anecdotal evidence from the training days of several teams suggests a noticeable level of general fatigue in the peloton. With the Col de Peyresourde, the Col de Val Louron-Azet and the Col de Portet on the menu on Wednesday, the stage could consist in surviving the rivals rather than attacking them.
“We have a big day tomorrow,” Pogacar told Saint-Gaudens. “I think it will even be the hardest day of this Tour de France. I know the last climb of the Col du Portet because I was able to do a recce. We’ll see how it goes, I’m ready for anything.
The Col du Portet appeared for the first time on the Tour as a summit finish in 2018 and stage 17 is essentially a repeat of this route, even if it is a little longer. Three years ago, ASO designed a stage only 65 km long – with a disappointing “starting grid” – which included the climb of Peyragudes (the Peyresourde under another name, essentially) and the Val Louron-Azet in road to the final climb. .
This time, the stage starts in Muret, south of Toulouse, with a relatively gentle preamble to the ascent, which does not begin until after 120 km with the ascent of the Col de Peyresourde (13.2 km to 7 %). After a rapid descent to Loudenvielle, the road climbs again, this time to the Col de Val Louron-Azet category 1 (7.4 km at 8.3%), where Miguel Indurain won his first yellow jersey on the Tour 1991.
These efforts will weigh on the legs before the formidable climb out of category of the Col du Portet, which rises above Saint-Lary-Soulan over 16 km with an average gradient of 8.7%. Chris Froome’s faltering hopes of beating teammate Geraint Thomas in the 2018 Tour essentially ended on that climb three years ago, and he laid out his demands earlier this week.
“It’s brutal. It’s a long climb that exceeds 2,000 meters, so it will truly be one of the most grueling climbs we’ve had on this year’s Tour and it’s also one of the only summit finishes we’ve had in this year’s Tour, ”said Israel Start-Up. Froome of the nation. “Coming so late into the race, it will really be a place where the overall guys can test each other. And if there are any cracks, this is where they will appear.
It’s hard to imagine Pogacar abandoning his yellow jersey at this late stage of the race, but the altitude could give men like Rigoberto Uràn (second at 5.18am) and Richard Carapaz (fourth at 5.33am) reason to believe that it is is the best place to test the 22-year-old’s resolve.
Pogacar, for his part, made no secret of his preference for racing in cold and rainy conditions, and the weather in Saint-Lary-Soulan on Bastille Day – cool and wet – would seem to please him. Whatever the weather, of course, the Col du Portet is an ascent that offers virtually no respite, apart from a brief lull halfway up. The grade quickly reaches 10 percent after about a mile of uphill and barely bends afterwards. Cruelly, the road races just as viciously inside the red flame.
“It’s unlike any other climb. It has its own characteristics that make it really difficult, ”Froome said. “It starts out pretty rough and you don’t get any recovery until about halfway through the race. We rest a little there, but we immediately go back to the second half, which is again just as difficult. It’s really difficult.
Nairo Quintana claimed the solo victory over the Col du Portet three years ago after escaping at the foot of the climb, while the group of yellow jerseys gradually fragmented as the climb s ‘stretched out and their air grew thinner. The Sky team (now Ineos Grenadiers) dictated the terms and conditions on this occasion, but the team has been singularly unable to do so on this race so far, beyond a few curious passages of rhythm which have more served to help Pogačar only to hinder him. .
Given the talent at their disposal, we imagine that Ineos Grenadiers will seek to evoke something in the final days of this race, but the simple difficulty of the Portet means that individual strength will probably be the key as Vingegaard pointed out: ” Tomorrow it’s going to be man against man on the last climb.