Against the magnificent panoramic backdrop of the Massif Central, Tadej Pogacar caught a glimpse of his rival Jonas Vingegaard’s yellow jersey, but the Slovenian will have to be patient. In the second battle on the volcano, the two-time Tour champion pricked another pinprick on the ultra-steep ramp up to the legendary Puy de Dôme, but Vingegaard maintained the overall lead. “That was a good day. I’m very happy that I was able to buy some time and put pressure on Jonas,” said Pogacar. Previously, he had hoarded a further eight seconds on the defending champion on Sunday when the Canadian breakaway Michael Woods won the day on the second mountain finish of the 110th Tour de France.

The duel between the two superstars, who put on another great climbing show, comes to a head and develops into a highly exciting, heart-stopping finale. Vingegaard still has a lead of 17 seconds over Pogacar – after 1625.2 kilometers and nine stages. “We’re both at a very high level. He was incredibly strong today and deserved the seconds. I’m happy that I still have the yellow jersey and I think that the stages that suit me are still to come.”

Pogacar stormed up the mountain of champions as if unleashed, but Vingegaard fought for every second just behind. 1.5 kilometers before the 1415 meter high summit, Pogacar launched one of his dreaded attacks on the up to 18 percent steep climb. Vingegaard fought doggedly to catch up – and kept the damage within limits. Pogacar has once again shown himself to be in strong form after being outplayed by Vingegaard in the Pyrenees.

The day’s win went to Woods, who broke away early with 13 other drivers and in the end had the greatest stamina. He was followed by Frenchman Pierre Latour and Slovenian Matej Mohoric. German drivers played no role in the tour return to the Puy de Dôme. The best German after the 13.3-kilometer climb with an average incline of 7.7 percent was Emanuel Buchmann, who came fourth in the Tour and remains 13th overall.

Old star Mark Cavendish was no longer seen by the several hundred thousand cycling fans after the ex-world champion had to retire on Saturday with a broken collarbone and had to give up his dream of a historic 35th stage win. The Brit would have left the legendary Eddy Merckx behind with another day’s victory. The 38-year-old, who actually wanted to end his career this year, may come back next year. His Astana team boss Alexander Vinokurov immediately offered him a new contract.

“I broke my thigh on the Tour myself in 2011, it was supposed to be my last year. But I didn’t want to stop like that. I extended and fought to win the Olympic Games in London the following year,” Vinokurov, who even won gold in the 2012 Olympic road race in front of Buckingham Palace, told the sports newspaper “L’Equipe”. “Mark has the same spirit, the same will to achieve his ultimate goal. We are ready to give him that opportunity. But he will decide.”

For the time being, Cavendish is still level with Merckx, who was never able to win on the Puy de Dôme, also because a spectator once hit him in the kidney area. It was one of the many legendary stories written on the climb. As did the elbow duel between five-time Tour winner Jacques Anquetil and perennial runner-up Raymond Poulidor, who outperformed his rival but missed yellow by 14 seconds.

The start of the stage in Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat was also marked by Poulidor, the grandfather of classic car specialist Matthieu van der Poel, who died in 2019. Tour manager Prudhomme laid a wreath at the grave in “Poupou’s” former place of residence, and van der Poel was presented with an old bike belonging to his grandfather before the starting gun, which moved the Dutchman to tears.

As the field rolled, it was the breakaways’ turn. A group of 14 riders pulled away and had a lead of over 14 minutes. That was enough to not be overtaken on the final climb. After the first rest day on Monday, the tour will continue on Tuesday with the tenth stage over 167.2 kilometers from Vulcania to Issoire. With five medium-difficult mountain classifications, there is constant ups and downs in the Massif Central, which should accommodate a breakaway group.