July 22nd, 2024

Pogacar takes yellow jersey in second stage of Tour de France

By The Associated Press on June 30, 2024.

BOLOGNA, Italy (AP) – Them two again.

It took only two days into the Tour de France to show that Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard are in a class of their own.

Pogacar attacked from the chasing peloton up the second ascent of the short but brutally steep San Luca climb in the second stage of the Tour on Sunday and only Vingegaard was able to follow him.

By the top of the climb, Pogacar and Vingegaard had opened up a 40-second gap ahead of the other contenders.

The move meant that Pogacar took the leader’s yellow jersey from Stage 1 winner Romain Bardet. Primoz Roglic, another expected overall contender, dropped 21 seconds behind.

Breakaway rider Kevin Vauquelin made it two French wins in two days by winning the hilly stage with an attack of his own up San Luca to follow up countryman Bardet’s success.

Pogacar won the Tour in 2020 and 2021 then finished second behind Vingegaard the last two years.

Pogacar is aiming for the rare Giro d’Italia-Tour double after dominating the Italian Grand Tour last month. Vingegaard hadn’t raced since a big crash in April left him with a broken collarbone and ribs, plus a collapsed lung.

“I can be very happy,” Vingegaard said, “that I was able to follow Tadej on the second time of San Luca, because this is probably one of the stages we feared the most. We actually expected me to lose time – because of the preparation.

“Honestly speaking, I didn’t have a good preparation for this race,” Vingegaard said. “I only had 1 1/2 months to prepare properly,” adding that the race “went way better” than he “had ever expected.”

The opening four stages are being held in Italy for the first time.

The 199-kilometre route starting in Cesenatico featured six categorized climbs, including two ascents up San Luca before the finish in downtown Bologna.

The San Luca climb is only 1.9 kilometres long but it features an average gradient of 10.6 per cent with sections at nearly 20 per cent.

Pogacar had already shown his legs during the first ascent up San Luca when he accelerated to grab a water bottle from a team staffer lining the road. That must have given him belief for his decisive attack on his second trip up.

In the overall standings, second-place Remco Evenepoel – the 2022 world champion and Spanish Vuelta winner – and third-place Vingegaard share the same time as Pogacar. Olympic gold medallist Richard Carapaz is fourth, also with the same time, while Bardet dropped to fifth, six seconds behind.

Evenepoel and Carapaz caught up to Pogacar and Vingegaard after the descent from San Luca.

Vauquelin clocked nearly five hours and finished a comfortable 36 seconds ahead of Jonas Abrahamsen and 49 seconds ahead of Quentin Pacher.

The 23-year-old Vauquelin, who won his first-ever Grand Tour stage, rides for the Arkea-B&B Hotels team, which earned its first victory at the Tour in its 11th time racing cycling’s biggest event.

Vauquelin’s teammate Cristian Rodriguez was also in the breakaway and set up his attack.

“I had a perfect day,” Vauquelin said. “I have to thank Cristian for his role in the way he helped me get through to win the stage. He put me in the perfect position and I knew I was going to be able to attack.”

The stage was dedicated to 1998 Tour champion Marco Pantani, who was from Cesenatico, and passed by a museum dedicated to the still beloved Italian rider, who died in 2004. Fans painted Pantani’s name all over the roads.

The stage also passed through Imola’s Formula 1 circuit.

There was a crash midway through the stage involving Wout van Aert, Laurens De Plus and Matteo Jorgenson but all three riders continued. Van Aert was then dropped on the first climb up San Luca.

Earlier, world champion Mathieu van der Poel also fell behind.

Stage 3 on Monday is the Tour’s longest, a mostly flat 231-kilometre leg from Piacenza to Turin that represents the race’s first chance of a mass sprint finish. That means it’s an opportunity for Mark Cavendish to break his tie with Eddy Merckx for the most career stage victories at the Tour, with the pair currently tied on 34 each.

Cavendish struggled with heat and stomach issues in Saturday’s opening stage and had to dig hard to finish within the maximum time limit. But he rode better on Sunday.

The race crosses back into France during Stage 4 on Tuesday, which is also the first big mountain leg going up to Sestriere and over the Col du Galibier – one of the Tour’s classic climbs.

AP cycling: https://apnews.com/hub/cycling

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