Tadej Pogacar made one of his dreaded attacks on the mystical Col de Joux Plane – and had to brake involuntarily a few meters later. Two accompanying motorcycles from the Tour de France blocked the Slovenian’s path just before the pass, so he remained second behind Jonas Vingegaard after the first stage in the Alps. After 14 stages, the defending champions from Denmark and Pogacar, who finished third and second at the Morzine finish, are separated by ten seconds. The Spaniard Carlos Rodriguez secured the day’s victory.
Pogacar attacked at Joux Plane, putting a small gap between himself and Vingegaard. But the Dane recovered and drove up again. When Pogacar started again 500 meters from the pass, he couldn’t get past a photographer’s and a TV bike. Vingegaard then surprised his opponent at the top of the pass and secured three bonus seconds. At the finish, Pogacar regained two seconds with his second place. Third overall is Rodriguez, a second ahead of Bora captain Jai Hindley.
Vingegaard and Pogacar started the stage just nine seconds apart. So far there have only been five editions of the Tour de France where the leader and pursuer have been even closer together. In 2008, only a second separated Cadel Evans and Frank Schleck. In the end neither of them won, but the Spaniard Carlos Sastre. Such a twist is unlikely to happen on the current tour.
However, the duel for the yellow jersey was initially not an issue. The first mass fall of this year’s Tour caused a stop a good five kilometers after the sharp start in Annemasse. About 20 riders fell on a descent and the same number were stopped. Each of the 22 teams was somehow involved in the crash, so tour director Christian Prudhomme neutralized and stopped the race.
Due to a fall, this is a rather rare procedure for the tour organization, in 2017 it was the case in Belgium. In other cases it was other factors. Sometimes activists blocked the road, sometimes the drivers went on strike for more safety. In 2019, the stage to Tignes had to be canceled due to a landslide.
The fall on the way to Morzine meant the immediate end of the tour for the Spaniard Antonio Pedrero and the South African Louis Meintjes – both had to abandon the race and be taken to the hospital. A broken collarbone at Meintjes was immediately confirmed. The 31-year-old was 13th overall and was the captain of the Intermarché team with Georg Zimmermann from Augsburg.
Esteban Chavez got off his bike a little later. The Colombian champion had tried to continue after the almost half-hour race break, but the pain in his shoulder was too great. In another descent, John Degenkolb’s teammate Romain Bardet and James Shaw fell. Both the Frenchman and the Briton involuntarily said goodbye to the tour. During the stage, Dutchman Ramon Sinkeldam and Portuguese Ruben Guerreiro also got off their bikes.
You will at least be spared the next mountain ordeal on Sunday. The 15th stage leads over 179 kilometers from Les Gets to the mountain finish in Saint-Gervais within sight of Mont Blanc. The final climb, which is only seven kilometers long, should be more for Pogacar than Vingegaard, but the gaps will probably not be too big.