″I gave absolutely everything. I know I need to win, there is no other way″

Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), the only Portuguese in competition on the Tour, arrived within 20 minutes of the leading duo and maintained his 60th place in the general ranking, 2:27.28 hours from the yellow jersey.

Tadej Pogacar won for the third time in this Tour de France on a bicycle, stole four seconds from Jonas Vingegaard, but was defeated in the 17th stage, wasting a remarkable work by UAE Emirates by not distancing the yellow jersey.

It was the most disappointing end to a hot journey in the Pyrenees: after his dwindling team blew up the race in the two previous mountains, the expected attack from the young Slovenian never came, with the reigning Tour champion just sprinting, high up in Peyragudes, to give a bonus and, thus, shorten the distance to the Dane from Jumbo-Visma, still numbered at 2.18 minutes.

“I gave absolutely everything. I know I need to win, there is no other way”, acknowledged “Pogi”, after becoming the second cyclist in history, after Giuseppe Saronni, to win at least three stages in the four big Tours. in which he participated – in addition to the nine victories accounted for in three appearances on the Tour, he also has three in the Vuelta’2019, his first three-week race.

More than the warm duel between Pogacar, supported exemplarily by Brandon McNulty, who broke through in the last meters and was third in the run, and Vingegaard, abandoned by his team more than 20 kilometers from the finish line, it was the fight for the podium that enlivened the journey. , with Geraint Thomas (INEOS) losing 2.07 minutes to the duo that precedes him in general, but getting closer to returning to the podium at Campos Elísios, where he has already been champion (2018) and runner-up (2019).

With only 129.7 kilometers to cover between Saint-Gaudens and Peyragudes, the journey promised to be intense, and it was from the start: the attempts to escape followed one another in a clumsy, without any success, something that prohibitively raised the average of the stage (37.804 km/h) and was removing parts from the peloton.

It was necessary to wait for the promotion to the Col d’Aspin, after Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) mathematically assured that he will wear the green jersey on Sunday at the Champs Elysées, so that, finally, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) to take the lead.

The duo, however, were always within easy reach of their pursuers, which included mountain leader Simon Geschke (Cofidis), Bob Jungels (AG2R Citroën), Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-EasyPost) or ninth-placed Romain Bardet (DSM). ), but also of the peloton, which crowned the first of three first-rate counts of the day, located at kilometer 65.7, at about 1.30 minutes.

Despite only having three squires in the competition, after Rafal Majka withdrew today due to injury, Pogacar sent “roller” Mikkel Bjerg to harden the pace in the group of candidates on the next climb, the Hourquette d’Ancizan, being Adam Yates (INEOS) the first “victim” among the “top 10” cast, followed by his teammate Thomas Pidcock.

But it was the 10.7 kilometers of ascent to Val Louron-Azet that condemned the fugitives, but also David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Enric Mas (Movistar), Aleksandr Vlasov (BORA-hansgrohe) and, finally, Nairo Quintana (Arkéa Samsic), who took off from the yellow jersey group, reduced to Vingegaard himself and his colleague Sepp Kuss, Pogacar and the gregarious McNulty and Thomas.

Kuss was the first to give in, leaving the Dane to fend for himself, the Welshman from INEOS followed, with the duo that is dominating this edition once again being on their own, with McNulty as a foreign element to the partnership they have animated the mountain stages of this Tour.

The three continued together until the last 300 meters of the run, while the 2018 champion tried, first with Bardet, and then solo, to minimize losses and, above all, to cement his third place on the final podium, a mirage each time. most likely for the 36-year-old Welshman, who is 4.56 minutes off Vingegaard but is nearly three minutes ahead of fourth-placed Quintana.

When McNulty “finished” – he reached 32 seconds -, the two strongest cyclists of this Tour de France “challenged” each other to “sprint”, in the first category mountain count, and the Slovenian took the best, finishing the stage in 3:25.51 hours.

Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), the only Portuguese in the competition, arrived within 20 minutes of the leading duo and maintained his 60th place in the general standings, 2:27.28 hours from the yellow jersey.

Opportunities for Pogi to make up for the time he lost on the Col do Granon are starting to dwindle and the 18th run, the last in the mountains, will perhaps be the most suitable for this mission: on Thursday, the 143.2 kilometers between Lourdes and Alto do Hautacam have three special category counts, the last of which coincides with the goal.

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