One day before ‘his’ mountain he could no longer contain himself. Tadej Pogačar has only good memories of La Planche des Belles Filles. On Saturday, September 19, 2020, he transformed from a super talent to a super champion on this climb. How devastatingly he rode out of the yellow jersey in the time trial Primož Roglič and won the Tour de France himself is unprecedented. On this very tough Vosges climb, he wants to triumph again the day after his surprising victory in Longwy.
The Tour history of La Planche des Belles Filles is known. He who wears the yellow jersey on this mountain is almost always honored as a Tour winner in Paris. Bradley Wiggins (2012), Vincenzo Nibali (2014), Chris Froome (2017) and Tadej Pogačar (2020) proved it. Only Giulio Ciccone couldn’t live up to it three years ago. Although at the time it was only stage six in the Tour.
This year, Pogačar seized stage six from Binche to Longwy to win the yellow jersey. An attack that was totally unplanned at the start, he said after the finish. In this first Tour week, the 23-year-old Slovenian mainly talks about ‘having fun’. First among the crowds in Denmark. Then in the cobblestone stage to Arenberg and now in a bizarrely fast stage with the final in the Lorraine.
It was impressive how Pogačar did not turn on the turbo but his jet engines in the final in the uphill sprint with Primož Roglič, Michael Matthews, Dylan Teuns and Thomas Pidcock at 250 meters from the finish line. The competition is almost despondent by the display of power with which the two-time Tour winner has already reigned in the first week.
And this was the week with the rides in which UAE Emirates had mainly set itself the goal of not falling behind. There was some fear for the four classic riders that Jumbo-Visma had specially set up for these first six stages in order to bring their classification riders Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard into position.
“With the positive corona test from Matteo Trentin and the somewhat struggling Mikkel Bjerg, we were quite weakened for these first rides,” confirmed team manager Mauro Gianetti. “The first week went incredibly well. †
“We never expected that we would already have the yellow. But you also see today that you are not allowed to write off anyone. Primož Roglič now attacks 400 meters from the finish, while he lost more than two minutes yesterday after a heavy fall. Jumbo-Visma and INEOS-Grenadiers still have several trump cards to play, so we have to stay super concentrated.”
It is Pogačar’s intention to go for the stage win again in the stage to La Super Planche des Belles Filles, a finish after the steep gravel zone with gradients of up to 24%. This climb evokes special feelings in him and he would like to experience the same sensations as in 2020. “Yes, I want to win again at La Planche des Belles Filles,” he said in the press conference.
“My girlfriend and parents are waiting for me at the top of the climb. That is an extra motivation to show something special,” he warned his competitors.
His teammate Rafal Majka enjoyed the performance of his servant. The Pole, two-time winner of the mountain jersey in the Tour de France, will from now on become one of the main pillars of support for the young Slovenian.
“I see Tadej just getting better and better every year,” said Majka. “In recent years he was still a bit of the coming man, but now he has really found his position as a leader. He is no longer afraid of anything and anyone. In his head he has become very strong. You can see that he has also become a lot better physically this year. Such a sprint as he shows today. That power, that explosiveness…”
Majka is therefore looking forward to the upcoming mountain stages: “With Brandon McNulty, Marc Soller, Geroge Bennett and me, we have a strong team around Pogačar for the high mountains. All we have to do is take him to the final climb. Then Tadej can provide the spectacle.”
He already showed that spectacle in Northern France. With the ‘maillot-jaune’ already on his shoulders, you are inclined to say that Pogačar has already made this Tour de France his own. Yet the differences are still small. Jonas Vingegaard is just 31 seconds away, while the INEOS-Grenadiers trio Adam Yates, Geraint Thomas and Daniel Felipe Martínez are within a minute. And don’t forget Aleksandr Vlasov at 52 counts.
“Tadej Pogačar is very impressive, but that does not surprise us,” said Rod Ellingworth, head coach of the British selection corps. “This kid has so much talent. We predicted him as the winner of this stage at 50 kilometers from the finish.”
Still, Ellingworth doesn’t look too much at Pogačar: “We never dreamed that after this week, on the eve of the first uphill finish, we would still have our three GC riders in a good position and in good form at the front. Pogačar has never shown any sign of weakness in his Tour past, but Tour history also teaches us that everyone can have a bad day.”