Tour de France: Tadej Pogačar snares yellow with stage 4 victory in high mountains (2024)

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Tadej Pogačar laid down a hefty marker at the Tour de France after he attacked near the summit of the Col du Galibier to win stage 4 in Valloire and move back into the yellow jersey.

His teammates imposed a relentless pace on the mighty Galibier, whittling the front of the race down to a UAE Team Emirates-dominated group of eight riders, and a Pogačar attack seemed inevitable. The only surprise was that it took so long to materialise, but Pogačar’s eventual acceleration, 900 metres or so from the summit, was a violent one.

Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) was the only rider to match Pogačar’s initial onslaught. Although the Dane was distanced on the final ramps of the climb, he put up fierce resistance, cresting the summit just eight seconds down.

On the vertiginous 18km drop into Valloire, however, Pogačar’s power and descending skills came to the fore, and the Slovenian gradually stretched out his advantage over Vingegaard, whose Tour preparation was interrupted by his heavy crash at Itzulia Basque Country in April.

After limiting his losses on the technical early part of the descent, Vingegaard flagged on the final approach to Valloire, where his deficit stretched out beyond half a minute, and he was caught by Primož Roglič (Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe), Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep), Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers) and Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) with a shade over 4km to go.

Out in front, Pogačar was every bit as remorseless as he had been at May’s Giro d’Italia, inexorably extending his advantage. He would cross the line 35 seconds clear of the chasers, who were led home by Evenepoel and Ayuso, with Vingegaard coming in a further two seconds back.

Thanks to the time bonuses he collected atop the Galibier and at the finish, Pogačar now holds a lead of 45 seconds over Evenepoel in the overall standings, while Vingegaard lies third overall at 50 seconds.

On the evidence of the final kilometre of the Galibier, this Tour might yet prove to be a Pogačar-Vingegaard duel for the fourth successive year, but after losing out for the past two Julys, the Slovenian will be heartened by his early advantage here.

“I’m super happy. This was more or less the plan, and we executed it really well,” said Pogačar, who had trained extensively in the area ahead of the Tour.

“I wanted to hit hard today, I know this stage really well, I’ve been training a lot of weeks already, it felt like a home stage. I had confidence at the start. I had good legs, so I had to try.”

Evenepoel was the best of the rest on the Galibier behind Pogačar and Vingegaard, cresting the summit only 15 seconds down, but the Belgian lost ground on the technical early part of the descent, on roads made treacherous by melted snow.

“I was a little surprised to see wet road on the first few corners, so it was bit scary,” Pogačar explained. “This descent is super fast, so if you know the road it’s a big help.”

Roglič, who had looked to be in severe difficulty when the road climbed, recovered well on the descent, scrambling back up to Rodríguez et al, but he is now already 1:15 down on his compatriot in the overall standings.

The Tour had never climbed this high this soon in the race, and there was a high rate of attrition on this early foray into the Alps, which took the peloton from Italy into France by way of the climbs of Sestriere and the Col de Montgenèvre.

UAE Team Emirates whittled down the group of favourites on the interminable climb of the Galibier, with yellow jersey Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost), Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) and Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike) among those distanced by the forcing of João Almeida and Adam Yates, who had set down a startling pace on the ascent.

Jorgenson and Bernal conceded 2:42, while Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) lost four minutes and Carapaz came home more than five minutes down.

The windy conditions on the ascent saw UAE rotate their pace-making duties, with Almeida the most impressive, though Ayuso also stepped up with a bracing turn of his own in the last 2km of the ascent.

“At first, it was a lot of headwind on the climb, so on the wheel it was not super hard,” Pogačar said. “The team did a super good job but I didn’t want to go too early because of the wind. I had to make all the difference I could in the last few hundred metres. Then I knew the descent to the finish.”

How it unfolded

After a relative truce on the long run to Turin on Monday, the Tour returned to its more usual state of ceaseless belligerence for stage 4, as the race entered the high mountains and crossed into France for the first time.

An uphill start to a short, mountainous day like this was already liable to provoke breathless racing from the gun, but ASO’s decision to place an intermediate sprint just 18km into the stage only heightened the intensity of the high-octane opening.

With the green jersey firmly in mind, Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) was among the most persistent attackers as the peloton splintered and reformed on the gentle lower slopes of the long climb towards Sestriere.

Bernal and Roglič were surprisingly among those caught behind, though both men would make it safely back up to the yellow jersey group further up the climb. Red Bull insisted that Roglič had fallen back due to a lapse in concentration rather than a lack of strength, but it was a needless error all the same. The Galibier would reveal more.

After Pedersen took the intermediate sprint at Castel del Bosco, the race gradually settled into some kind of a pattern on the 40km haul to Sestriere. The sprinters were distanced, men like Bernal and Roglič made it back up to the yellow jersey group and, 30km into the stage, a 17-man break took shape.

Stevie Williams (Israel-Premier Tech), Chris Juul-Jensen (Jayco-AlUla), Julien Bernard (Lidl-Trek), Bruno Armirail (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale), David Gaudu, Romain Gregoire, Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Mathieu van der Poel ( Alpecin-Deceuninck), Oier Lazkano (Movistar Team), Raúl García Pierna, Cristian Rodríguez (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Kobe Goossens (Intermarché-Wanty), Warren Barguil (DSM-firmenich-PostNL), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), Odd Christian Eiking, Tobias Halland Johannessen (Uno-X Mobility) and Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies) quickly built up a lead of two minutes, and that gap would remain more or less static over the climbs of Sestriere and the Col de Montgenèvre, where the Tour crossed from Italy into France.

Williams signalled his king of the mountains ambitions by outsprinting his breakaway companions to maximum points both at Sestriere and atop the Montgenèvre. Behind, UAE Team Emirates were doing bulk of the pace-setting in the bunch on the climbs, with some help from the EF Education team of yellow jersey Richard Carapaz. Pogačar’s teammates would underscore their intentions by briefly splitting the yellow jersey group on the drop off the Montgenèvre.

At the foot of the mighty Col du Galibier, the escapees had 2:48 in hand on the yellow jersey group, though that gap was always going to shrink on the 23km haul to the summit, some 2,642m above sea level.

Lazkano attacked midway up the climb, but the Basque’s only reward was to be the last man standing from the break as UAE’s startling collective strength washed over the Galibier, and he was caught 7.5km from the top.

By then, Simon Yates had already been distanced, and more lofty names were to follow, as UAE shredded the group in the manner of the Team Sky of old. Tom Pidco*ck (Ineos Grenadiers) was dropped 6.5km from the summit, with Carapaz following soon afterwards.

Within another few hundred metres, Vingegaard and Roglič had lost all their teammates. Evenepoel still had Mikel Landa for company, but everybody – Vingegaard included – was a passenger as UAE imposed their will on the race and beat a pathway up the mountain for Pogačar.

Nice is still a long way away, but the Giro-Tour double will feel considerably closer for Pogačar after his latest startling feat of strength here.

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Tour de France: Tadej Pogačar snares yellow with stage 4 victory in high mountains (39)

Barry Ryan

Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.

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