Another punishing day in the Alps, a stage with 4,500m of elevation gain, saw a stalemate in the fight for yellow, despite a tense final climb up to Saint Gervais-Mont Blanc where a number of intriguing tactics were on show. Going into the second rest day, Vingegaard leads Pogačar by just 10 seconds.
Most interestingly, UAE’s Adam Yates attacked with around a kilometre to go but neither Pogačar nor Vingegaard responded. Similarly, the latter’s Jumbo-Visma teammate Wout van Aert decided to try and win the stage from the breakaway instead of dropping back to help out the yellow jersey.
Reflecting on an engrossing day in the high mountains, Pogačar said: “We tried to make it as hard as possible in the final climb, but I feel that for Jonas it was too easy the climb.
“I tried but I know he was super good today, so I didn’t bother too much to beat him. I did go all out, but I knew there wouldn’t be any difference.”
UAE’s manager Joxean Fernández Matxín outlined the team’s tactics but conceded that Vingegaard looked unflappable. “The plan was this: the breakaway with [Marc] Soler to help in the last moment; Adam’s attack first and then Tadej’s attack.
“The team was perfect, the coordination perfect, and the planning was perfect, but obviously Vingegaard is another super rider. He is the yellow jersey and today it was impossible to take seconds. The idea was to maybe drop Jonas and to help Tadej, but both maintained the gap [to one another].”
Tuesday’s 22.4km time trial is followed by the Queen stage the day after, with stage 20’s trip in the Vosges mountains the third expected opportunity to decide the final destination of the yellow jersey.
Matxín remained optimistic about Pogačar’s chances. “There is absolute confidence,” the Spaniard said. “All the team is at an amazing level, trying at all moments, continuing to fight and we’re not comfortable with second place. We will continue the battle.
“The situation is that it’s important to take the yellow jersey one day. We’re not sure what day, but it’s the same idea as Jumbo. It’s a complicated battle.
“Every day is better for Tadej. The first week was complicated, the second week he is getting better every day, and the third week he can grow.”
Asked how many seconds Pogačar could beat Vingegaard by in the time trial, Matxín quipped: “11 second is perfect!”