MALAUCENE, France (Reuters) – Tour de France overall leader Tadej Pogacar showed great composure to recover from a rare failure as he extended his advantage in the general classification at the end of a brutal 11th stage on Wednesday.
The defending champion cracked near the top of the second ascent of the punishing Mont Ventoux as one of his challengers, Dane Jonas Vingegaard, attacked.
But the Slovenian, who dropped some 40 seconds behind, eventually caught the Jumbo Visma rider in the long descent to the finish.
Pogacar was leading Ben O’Connor by 2:01 in the morning but the Australian cracked in the steepest, woods-covered part of the Ventoux to leave the 22-year-old’s closest rival, Colombian Rigoberto Uran, trailing by 5:18.
“It was just a little bit too much for me and I cracked. It was a super hard, hot day,” said Pogacar, who had humiliated his rivals in last weekend’s two Alpine stages.
“In the second ascent of the Ventoux the tempo was not too high but it was not easy and I exploded in the end. I tried to stay calm and just tried to pace myself because Vingegaard had too much power at the moment.
“I think I didn’t panic and that was a good thing. If I had panicked I could have cracked even worse in the end.”
Even though it was the first time he showed weakness, Pogacar summed up his ride by saying it was “a good day” and he is now looking forward to the Pyrenees, where four punishing stages will be contested.
“I’m looking forward to the Pyrenees, I know the stages and I’m looking forward to them even if I have a bad day there,” Pogacar said.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)