Pogacar lashes out at ‘scared’ Vingegaard at Tour de France

UAE Team Emirates team’s Slovenian rider Tadej Pogacar wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey (C) cycles with the pack of riders (peloton) over the Plateau de la Cote des Bar “Chemin Blanc” (white road) gravel sector during the 9th stage of the 111th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, 199km stage departing and finishing in Troyes, on July 7, 2024. AFP

Tour de France overall leader Tadej Pogacar voiced frustration with Jonas Vingegaard’s defensive tactics on Sunday, claiming the defending champion was “scared” as little-known Frenchman Anthony Turgis won stage nine.

The attack-minded Pogacar tried to break several times through the champagne vineyards, including dusty gravel roads for a first time, but finished alongside his title rivals Vingegaard and Remco Evenepoel.

“It’s a shame me, Remco and Jonas didn’t go for it together,” said Slovenian Pogacar.

“I think it’s because of (Vingegaard’s team) Visma’s tactics. Otherwise, we’d have been the three of us on the podium.

“They are scared of me and just followed.”

Second-placed Evenepoel agreed with Pogacar but was less disappointed.

“It’s a shame yes, we could have taken three or four minutes off the others,” said Evenepoel.

“I had a good time though, I enjoyed it. You have to accept other team tactics.”

Pogacar leads Belgian Evenepoel by just 33sec while Vingegaard is third at 1min 15sec.

Pogacar won the Tour de France in 2020 and 2021, but came second to Vingegaard in 2022 and 2023.

The 27-year-old hugged Pogacar’s wheel throughout the first two weeks last year before crushing his rival on stage 16 and 17 to win by 7min 29sec.

Vingegaard suffered serious injuries in March and was hospitalised for 12 days, and is gingerly feeling his way back to full form.

Pogacar won the Giro d’Italia in May and will become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to do a Giro-Tour double if he emerges on top after stage 21 in Nice later in July.

Pidcock pipped

Briton Tom Pidcock was second on the day after tailing Turgis but looked to be slightly blocked as he made a last-gasp bid for the line ahead of third-placed Derek Gee of Canada.

Turgis, 30, claimed the first major victory of his career having come fourth in the French road race championships last month and second at the 2022 Milan-San Remo.

“That was wonderful,” Turgis said at the finish line in the city of Troyes.

“I’ve been close to winning for ages and to get one here is just great,” he added after becoming the third French winner of a stage during this year’s Grande Boucle.

As France voted in the second round of a parliamentary election, hundreds of thousands of cycling fans turned out for the Tour on this first holiday weekend.

A shake-up in the overall standings had been expected as the peloton tackled 14 white gravel paths in the region’s celebrated champagne vineyards that produce over 300 million bottles of sparkling wine a year.

One of them was cracked open at the finish line by Turgis, who had been part of the long-range breakaway from a group of one-day specialists.

Mountains’ polka-dot jersey wearer Jonas Abrahamsen and his team paid homage on Sunday to his Norwegian compatriot Andre Drege who died in a fall on the Tour of Austria on Saturday.

Seven of the team’s eight riders on this Tour de France are Norwegian.

Sprint ace Biniam Girmay holds the green jersey after his two wins on stages three and eight, with 224 points while 2023 green jersey winner Jasper Philipsen has 128 points in second.

While Monday is a rest day in Orleans, most of the peloton will ride out for a few hours to stay fresh.

Stage 10 on Tuesday heads south from Orleans for a flat stage where veteran Mark Cavendish will target a record-extending 36th stage win.

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