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Representative Image. (Photo- Tour De France Twitter)
Representative Image. (Photo- Tour De France Twitter)

Tour De France: Slovenia's Tadej Pogacar goes into Yellow with stage 6 win

ANI | Updated: Jul 08, 2022 20:38 IST

Longwy [France], July 8 (ANI): Slovenia's Tadej Pogacar swapped white for yellow with an emphatic Stage 6 win in Longwy as outgoing race leader Wout van Aert put in a ride for the ages in a bold bid to achieve the impossible.
Van Aert's gutsy long-range breakaway attempt ended just 10km from the finish of the longest stage of the race, opening the door to the seventh stage win of Pogacar's career.
The 109th edition of the Tour has not even reached the mountains and defending champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) already has the yellow jersey on his back. On the race's longest - and fastest - day, the Slovenian superstar zipped clear of his rivals to win the uphill sprint at Longwy as Belgium's Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) conceded the yellow jersey in style.
Van Aert put in an attacking tour de force during the 220km stage from Binche, closing down all the early moves before getting into the day's three-man breakaway and extending his grip on the green jersey points classification.
The man in yellow was the last man standing from the breakaway after Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) and Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) were both jettisoned in the lumpy ride towards the finish. Van Aert eventually succumbed to the inevitable, the plucky Stage 4 winner caught and spat out on the last of three categorised climbs with just over 10km remaining.
Pogacar's UAE squad then came to the fore ahead of the finish. And once Frenchman Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies) was called to heel after a gutsy solo attempt on the final rise to the line, Pogacar responded to an early move from compatriot Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) to open up a commanding lead on the home straight.
The double champion had time to sit up and savour the moment as he coasted to the seventh Tour stage win of his career, with Australia's Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) settling for second place - the same result when the Tour last came to Longwy five years ago.
Frenchman David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Briton Thomas Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) and Colombia's Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) completed the top five with Jumbo-Visma duo Jonas Vingegaard and Roglic also finishing in the main leading group.
Ten bonus seconds sees Pogacar move four seconds clear of the American Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) after overnight leader Van Aert came home over seven minutes down after his latest entertaining attempt at tearing up the rule book and pulling off the seemingly impossible.
On the eve of the race's first mountaintop finish at La Super Planche des Belles Filles, 23-year-old Pogacar leads last year's runner-up Vingegaard by 31 seconds, with a British trio from Ineos Grenadiers - Adam Yates, Pidcock and Geraint Thomas - in fourth, fifth and sixth at 39, 40 and 46 seconds respectively.
An encouragingly strong finish from Roglic one day after he dislocated his shoulder in a fall during the cobblestone stage to Arenberg saw the 32-year-old rise 16 places to 28th in the general classification. But his deficit of 2'27" means the Criterium du Dauphine winner still has it all to do as the Tour enters the start of its mountainous next chapter.
Anyone wishing for a gentle start to the longest stage of the race after the chaos and calamity of the cobbles was given short shrift as attacks rained down from the outset like monsoon season in India.
An indication of just how unforgiving the early pace came with the sight of Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) struggling to hold onto the back of the peloton, the Dutchman's travails continuing off the back of his stellar Giro debut earlier this year.
Three riders - Benoit Cosnefroy (Ag2R-Citroen), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) and Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) - managed to open up a little gap but a series of counter moves from the likes of Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and the indefatigable Van Aert soon brought the trio to the sword.
Van Aert briefly joined forces with Britain's Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) before an 11-man move went clear with around 165km remaining.
Features some strong riders in Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma), Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Simon Geschke (Cofidis), Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and the polka dot jersey Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost), the move had all the markings of one that could go the distance.
But Van Aert had other ideas.
The man in yellow led the chase to bring the race back together, with the average pace for the opening two hours above 52km/h and on course for a Tour record.
When a move eventually stuck it came to no one's surprise that it was Van Aert who provided the glue, the 27-year-old Belgian going clear with Danish veteran Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) and the youngest rider in the race, the flame-haired American Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo).
An untimely mechanical on the first climb of the day was not enough to derail Van Aert, whose presence ensured that the advantage would quickly grow above the four-minute mark. Van Aert then won the intermediate sprint in Carignan with 73km to go to extend his lead in the green jersey points classification.
Some hefty pacing behind in the peloton - particularly from the EF Education-EasyPost team of Neilson Powless, eyeing a potential yellow jersey for the American - saw the gap quickly tumble to two minutes. This sparked Fuglsang to sit up and maintain his energy for more important battles ahead.
Van Aert and Simmons momentarily extended their lead after a series of collaborative pulls, but once the first showers started to fall and the gap edged under a minute, Van Aert took matters into his own hands and ditched his grimacing colleague in a bold bid for glory.
But with two categorised climbs and some lumpy roads in the final 30km, it was always going to be too big an ask even for a rider of Van Aert's stature - and when he was reeled in with 10km to go, the scene was set for an exciting finale between the puncheurs and GC favourites.
A few crashes peppered the approach to the finish as the tension rose in the pack, Russia's Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrophe) one of the big-name riders needing to chase back on ahead of the final categorised climb.
Here, on the short double-digit Cote de Pulventeux, Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies) threw the dice with 6km remaining with Pogacar behind stretching his legs by leading the chase. The Frenchman was caught on the final rise into Longwy after the UAE Team Emirates brought their man to the front.
Pogacar then darted clear of the wheel of American teammate Brandon McNulty to deny Australia's Michael Matthews and Frenchman David Gaudu - and ensure that it was he who took over the yellow jersey from Van Aert and not Powless, who finished 14th and just ahead of a split that saw Geraint Thomas and the recovering Vlasov concede five seconds.
"Every time I win it's even better," Pogacar said after his latest Tour exploit.
"Today was such a hard day. From the start, the first two hours were crazy. The strongest guy went in the breakaway and a lot of guys were pulling in the peloton. I was thinking he [Van Aert] would come to the finish but in the end, the peloton was stronger," Pogacar said.
"We came to the final climbs and I felt good. The team did a perfect job and brought me into a good position. I'm so happy. It was not a pure sprint because we rode the last two climbs really hard. It was super hard and hectic on the final climb but I guess I had good legs to press in the end," he added.
The average speed for the day was 49.4km/h making it the third quickest stage of any race this year and the fifth quickest in Tour history - quite staggering given the hilly terrain towards the finish.
As for Van Aert's aggressive and brave ride, it was left to Pidcock, fourth on the day, to deliver the verdict: "He's playing with our balls, isn't he? I don't know what to say, to be honest. He's taking the p***, isn't he?"
Out of yellow, Van Aert will now get to don the green jersey that Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) has kept warm for him ever since the second stage back in Denmark. That and the red bib number as the day's most combative rider.
The Tour continues on Friday with the 176.3km Stage 7 as the race enters the Vosges mountains for a summit showdown on La Super Planche des Belles Filles. If Pogacar is in control now, he could well put the yellow jersey out of reach on the first of six mountaintop finishes of the Tour.
Action from the CYCLING World Tour 2022- Tour De France - Stage 6 - Binche - Longwy can be watched LIVE on EUROSPORT and EUROSPORT HD. (ANI)