“It was a pretty tough final climb”, gasped Van Aert shortly after the finish. “Pogacar was dropped off well by his team, but I waited for the right moment to go and it worked out well. At the end it became flatter again and that’s where the biggest opportunities lay in the sprint”, beamed the man, who still has the green jersey around his shoulders. “For that, the points were up for grabs today.”
“I may have waited a little too long, but finishing third is still very nice,” said Pogacar, who had to think back to his youth as a cyclist. “I like sprinting more and more. When I was young, I was one of the smallest and always finished at the back in group sprints,” said the 23-year-old Slovenian. “My sprints are getting better and better, but I can beat men like Van Aert and Matthews.”
Bauke Mollema, from whom some attack was expected today, was at the front of the pack at the start, but the first hole was made by the Italian Kristian Sbaragli. However, he was quickly caught up. Shortly afterwards, a group of three riders did manage to make a long flight ahead. Italian Mattia Cattaneo, Belgian Frederik Frison and Englishman Fred Wright had left and the peloton followed for tens of kilometers at two and three minutes later.
Pogacar was involved in an early crash in the race, but the race leader was able to continue. That ultimately did not apply to the Italian Gianni Moscon and the American Kevin Vermaerke. Both had to squeeze the brakes. The latter seemed to have problems with his collarbone. The first intermediate sprint was won by Wright, the first mountain point of the day was for Frison. He was the first to climb the Côte de Maréchet, a fourth category mountain. The second ascent of the day, the Côte des Rousses (also fourth category), was also a prey for Frison.
Kevin Vermaerke had to give up the fight after a crash.
At sixty kilometers from the finish line, the Belgian gave up. Cattaneo and Wright kept a lead of about two minutes on the peloton and on the penultimate climb it was the Italian who again scored a point in the battle for the polka dot jersey, which is still firmly on the shoulders of the Dane Magnus Cort . At twenty kilometers from the finish, on the way to the final climb, the two front runners still had a good minute lead on the peloton.
The three escapees: Mattia Cattaneo, Frederik Frison and Fred Wright
With about five kilometers to go, at the foot of the final climb (Côte du Stade olympique), Wright released Cattaneo and his lead over the peloton narrowed until he was finally caught. All favorites were at the front when entering the final. Van Aert showed himself to be the strongest in the last kilometers uphill, by keeping Matthews and Pogacar behind after a great jump. A stage will follow on Sunday, including two first category cols, after which there will be a day of rest for the Tour caravan.
Pogacar looked back on a hard day. “It was getting warmer and there were quite a few dangerous moments along the way,” he referred to the crash at the beginning of the ride, which left him hardly any damage. “It was one of my softest landings ever,” he laughed.
There was concern about two corona cases. Pogacar lost teammate Vegard Stake Laengen on Saturday after a positive test. After Frenchman Geoffrey Bouchard, the Norwegian was the second rider to drop out during the Tour due to corona. “The fear is good with two infections in one day. But the pandemic is here and we can’t risk anything. We test every two days. Yesterday everyone was still negative, but Vegard already had a sore throat. Today he unfortunately turned out to be positive.”
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