Tadej Pogacar reminds of Lance Armstrong

Analysis

That one look at 15 meters before the finish. Straight in the eye, like a predator looking at its prey. Like a master who corrects his disciple. You think you can play with me? No buddy, you’re a size too small for that.

Tadej Pogačar looks straight into the eyes of Jonas Vingegaard when he passes him just before the finish and takes the stage victory. As if to say, there is only one person in charge here at La Planche des Belles Filles.

The two-time Tour de France winner had announced it. On this Vosges climb where he surprisingly won his first Tour de France two years ago in a spectacular way in the final time trial, he wants to do it again.

After all, his girlfriend and parents are waiting for him at the finish. It will probably cost him more breath and strength than he had previously estimated. Vingegaard’s attack in the last few hundred meters visibly surprises him and he still has to pull his strength from his toes to pass the unleashed Dane.

That look is reminiscent of another boss. ‘The Boss’ to be precise. Lance Armstrong could also look at his direct competitors with that ‘what the fuck’ look when they had hurt him for a moment. Perhaps that one look indicated that Pogačar is also feeling untouchable right now. That he is amazed that others push him to the limit.

photo: Cor Vos

Armstrong’s comparison is easy to make on this day. On this July 8, Pogacar will start a foundation (www.pogacar.org) for cancer research. The foundation hopes to contribute to new diagnoses and therapeutics in the field of cancer metabolism to overcome cancer. An initiative that the leader of UAE Emirates has been committed to since his mother-in-law died of cancer at a relatively young age in April.

Predecessor
With this foundation he is following in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor LA who has done many good things in the fight against cancer with the Livestrong Foundation.

Pogačar had deliberately chosen La Planche des Belles Filles for the launch of this charity this day with the arrival. The mountain that suits him so well and with which he has had such a special relationship since the Tour of 2020. A mountain where he feels invincible.

“Jonas was very strong. He really made it difficult for me,” Pogačar was honest about the finish. “When Jonas took a few meters, I thought about my team. They have been leading the way for me all day, because they knew I wanted this stage win so badly. I also wanted to put my foundation in the spotlight with this victory.”

With two successive stage victories and the yellow jersey firmly around his shoulders, Pogačar seems to deal his competition blow after blow. Yet at Jumbo-Visma they also felt somewhat the moral winner of this ride through the Vosges. They are pleased that Vingegaard is able to hurt Pogačar, just like last year on Mont Ventoux. Still only 35 seconds behind the leader in the standings.

photo: Cor Vos

In addition, Primož Roglič showed with a third place in the stage result that the injuries caused by the crash in the cobblestone stage did not stop him.

“Primož will probably no longer win this Tour, but it now shows that we still have a lot of opportunities with him as a team,” Jumvo-Visma team leader Grischa Niermann noted.

Normally, Roglič is a wait-and-see leader who only makes his ‘deadly’ movement in the final. Now he will have to come out of his loft earlier in order to create a promising situation for Vingegaard.

Switchover
Whether he can make that switch in this Tour is the question? Last year in the Vuelta a España he proved in the stage to Lagos de Covadonga with an attack together with Egan Bernal at 60 kilometers from the finish that he could also draw his plan. That attack should be an example of what he will also have to do in the Alps, Massif Central and Pyrenees.

At UAE Emirates they are prepared for that. George Bennett is now Pogačar’s right-hand man, but drove for six years at Jumbo-Visma alongside Primož Roglič. “Tadej Pogačar is the best rider I have encountered in my career,” the New Zealander said afterwards.

“But, I also know Primoz and the strength of Jumbo-Visma. Maybe they won’t beat Tadej in the one-on-one battle. But they still have two trumps and will try to strike at an unexpected moment. We must be ready every day that they want to make war. That can be in a mountain stage, but also in a sprint when there is a little wind. It will be a very tough Tour for us.”