Defending champion Tadej Pogacar of the UAE Emirates team launched a blistering attack on a late climb to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France and regain the leader’s overall yellow jersey on Thursday.
He then warned his rivals he couldn’t wait for the mountains, with a first summit skirmish expected on stage seven on Friday.
Pogacar attacked here on a steep climb 500 meters from the finish and was a class above his main rivals Jonas Vingegaard of Jumbo and Adam Yates of Ineos, who are now 31s 39 seconds behind him in the standings.
“It feels like I had it for the first time,” Pogacar said as he pulled on the yellow jersey he last wore on the 2021 final podium under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
“It was a real struggle to get it again,” he said.
A battle he seemed to win with relative ease, however, as the Slovenian took the overall lead ahead of EF’s American rider Nelson Powless thanks to the 10 bonus seconds the stage winner had to offer.
“I believe in myself, the cobblestones went well yesterday, today too, but tomorrow will be the biggest test of the Tour yet,” Pogacar warned before Friday’s climb to the legendary mountain peak Planche des belles Filles.
The 23-year-old celebrated this win by hitting the air repeatedly and is in a prime position in his bid to win a third consecutive Tour de France.
He beat Australian Michael Matthews to second on the day, while FDJ’s David Gaudu was third and Britain’s Tom Pidcock fourth.
On his rookie Tour de France Ineos rider, Pidcock, 22, will wear the best white jersey under 26 on Friday, although Pogacar leads him in that ranking.
– Something to remember –
Overnight leader Wout van Aert paraded the yellow jersey across Belgium before launching an ultimately doomed but furious attack through 130km of rolling woodland before being caught 15km away.
Van Aert will instead ride Friday’s stage in the green sprint points jersey and will have won many fans over for his reckless attitude. The 27-year-old Belgian also won the red jersey of the day as the most attacking rider after his largely solo breakaway of 136km, leading that ranking in the overall standings.
“I wanted to remember my last day in yellow,” said Van Aert, who has a stage win and three second places to his name in the 2022 Tour. “I also wanted to give the fans something to remember.
“It was an intense day, but I’m happy to change jerseys,” he said after taking the green one.
Denmark’s Magnus Cort Nielsen kept the polka dot jersey he claimed on the second stage that cheered him wildly along the Danish roads.
“I’ll try to keep it up for another day, but I’ve already given so much,” said the EF rider.
On Friday, the Tour takes the horrendous 24 percent incline on the gravel climb to La Super Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges, but the race leader seems undaunted.
“My family will be there and my girlfriend will be waiting for me, so I can’t wait,” said Pogacar.
“Tomorrow we go into the climbing section and we are in a good position to defend the yellow.”