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Vingegaard and Pogačar stage epic Tour de France battle on Joux Plane

Carlos Rodriguez jumps onto podium with stage win

Photo by: Sirotti

Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard entertained the world with Saturday’s epic Tour de France battle on the slopes of the Alpine climb Joux Plane. By the time the stage ended, yellow jersey Vingegaard had gained a single second on the Slovenian. Carlos Rodriguez’s grand stage triumph made it two in a row for Ineos, and the Spaniard took over the final podium spot at the expense of Jai Hindley, also by a single second. Michael Woods, who was active in the breakaway, was top Canadian at 43rd.

The Course

After the Pyrenees, the Massif Central and the Juras, it was time for the Alps. Saturday’s 152-km route held five categorized climbs, with a Cat. 3 and two Cat. 1s in the first half, and a Cat. 1 and an HC in the second half. The HC ascent was the 11.7-km, 8.5 percent Col de Joux Plane, peaking 12 km from the finish line in Morzine les Portes du Soleil. There were bonus seconds atop Joux Plane.

The first hour was marked by crashes and a huge breakaway. Thirteenth-place Louis Meintjes was among two riders who had to abandon after a crash just after the start in Annemasse. It was the kind of parcours that was going to elicit a big escape, and sure enough Hugo Houle was in the gang that got loose on the appetizer climb, Cat. 3 Col de Saxel. On the descent, 12th-place Romain Bardet crashed out. Five riders abandoned with crash injuries by the 30-km point.

On Cat. 1 Col de Cou, Michael Woods bridged over from the peloton. Giulio Ciccone crested just before KOM jersey holder Neilson Powless. The breakaway started the descent of the Cou just 30 seconds clear of the peloton.

Woods bridges over to Houle and company on the Cou.

Next up was the Cat. 1 Col du Feu. The peloton was still snapping at the fugitives’ heels. The breakaway was in pieces. Woods, Thibaut Pinot, Ciccone, Mikel Landa and Alex Aranburu stole away from the others. Woods then attacked with Ciccone following, the Italian taking the maximum KOM points up front. Ciccone was now 12 points behind polka dot jersey Powless. Woods was now in eighth place in the KOM.

Woods and Ciccone scrap atop the Feu.

There was an unclassified climb capped with the day’s intermediate sprint. Here the breakaway reformed, shrank and worried about the Jumbo-Visma-powered peloton that was still uncomfortably close. Woods and Houle were still in the escape group.

With the peloton under a minute in their rear view mirror, Woods and Ciccone took off again at the bottom of the penultimate ascent, Cat. 1 Col de la Ramaz. Ciccone was the final resister, holding out until 58 km to go, and Woods immediately fell away from the yellow jersey group.
Jumbo-Visma continued to turn the screws, dropping eighth-place Tom Pidcock. Sixteen riders tipped over the top with Vingegaard; there were four Jumbo Bees and four UAE-Emirates. Wout Van Aert led on the ascent and through the valley towards Joux Plane.

Col de Joux Plane

On the mountain, UAE’s Rafal Majka took over from Jumbo’s Wilco Kelderman, dropping Van Aert. Van Aert came back to pull, shrinking the group, putting sixth place Simon Yates and seventh place Pello Bilbao out the back. Sepp Kuss took over when the group was a septet: the two main men, Hindley, Rodriguez, Adam Yates and Felix Gall. Gall had an opportunity to rocket up the GC and Hindley and Rodriguez were making the podium battle theirs. Everyone was gassed.

Pogacar stressed when he dropped a bottle hand up, perhaps because of the ice bag attached to it.

Gall lost contact at 5.7 km to climb and Hindley 400 metres later. A handful remained. His twin Simon 1:05 behind, Adam Yates went to the front and cracked Kuss and Rodriguez.

Pogačar made a move with 3.9 km to climb and 15.9 km to go, skipping away from Vingegaard but not getting a lot of space. Yates latched onto Rodriguez.

Pogacar can’t shake Vingegaard on the Joux Plane.

Vingegaard pulled himself back with 1.8 km to climb. The duo slowed. Rodriguez rid himself of Yates and started to shrink his deficit to both the two leaders and third place Hindley. Pogačar tried to attack but he was blocked by the crowd. Vingegaard then struck to take the maximum bonus seconds, now 12 seconds clear of the Slovenian on the GC.

Rodriguez and Yates rejoined for the descent before the Spaniard bolted to try to snag the victory and the podium. The strong move won him the flowers and the podium. By coming runner-up ahead of his Danish foe, Pogačar cut his loss to a second.

Pidcock dropped out of the top 10, while Gall rocketed five places into the top 10. Sepp Kuss moved up four spots to ninth.

We get more of this on Sunday, as the day concludes with a two-headed summit finish climb: nasty little Côte des Amerands and Cat. 1 Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc.

2023 Tour de France Stage 14
1) Carlos Rodriguez (Spain/Ineos) 3:58:45
2) Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia/UAE-Emirates) +0:05
3) Jonas Vingegaard (Denmark/Jumbo-Visma) s.t.
43) Michael Woods (Canada/Israel-Premier Tech) +27:19
58) Hugo Houle (Canada/Israel-Premier Tech) +29:03
120) Guillaume Boivin (Canada/Israel-Premier Tech) +37:29

2023 Tour de France GC
1) Jonas Vingegaard (Denmark/Jumbo-Visma) 57:47:28
2) Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia/UAE-Emirates) +0:10
3) Carlos Rodriguez (Spain/Ineos) +4:43
4) Jai Hindley (Australia/Bora-Hansgrohe) +4:44
5) Adam Yates (Great Britain/UAE-Emirates) +5:20
32) Michael Woods (Canada/Israel-Premier Tech) +1:26:43
60) Hugo Houle (Canada/Israel-Premier Tech) +2:13:13
126) Guillaume Boivin (Canada/Israel-Premier Tech) +3:27:58