Tadej Pogačar expects stage 17 to be ‘the hardest day in the Tour’

Tadej Pogačar is expecting a challenge on Wednesday's stage 17 of the Tour de France.

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Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) is expecting a challenge on Wednesday’s stage 17 of the Tour de France.

With a little over two weeks of racing in the rearview mirror, Pogačar and the rest of the Tour peloton have gone up and over plenty of tough ascents already, but the next two days of the race will feature the first and then the last hors categorie summit finishes of the Tour.

The first item in the double feature that awaits is a 178.4 km stage 17 that starts out gentle after leaving Muret before roaring into action, with trips up the Cat 1 Col de Peyresourde and Col de Val Louron-Azet before the finale on the steep slopes of the Col du Portet.

“Tomorrow I think is the hardest day in the Tour. Let’s hit it,” Pogačar said after stage 16.

Pogačar’s firm grip on the yellow jersey has hardly been challenged over the past few days, with Jonas Vingegaard’s (Jumbo-Visma) relatively brief foray away from the GC riders on stage 11 standing out as the last time any of Pogačar’s rivals have put him under serious pressure. Stage 16 featured a few tense moments as Jumbo-Visma hit a final Cat 4 climb at a high tempo and as the stage finished with a high-speed push to the line, but Pogačar was able to follow with ease.

Otherwise, there were no dangerous moves on the day.

“For sure, they’re focusing on tomorrow and not today, because today was not the profile to suit big GC gaps,” Pogačar said.

Stage 17 should certainly offer opportunities for fireworks, should the GC hopefuls be inclined to go on the attack. As Pogacar put it, “If someone feels super good, they can make a difference to the guy who feels super bad. We’ll do everything we can to defend the yellow.”

Intriguingly, Pogačar also said on Tuesday that he wouldn’t mind a little bit of tricky weather on the already challenging stage to come. Stage 16 was a cold and wet one, and apparently, the Tour’s defending champ is OK with those conditions.

“Whatever comes, it’s going to be hard no matter what the weather is,” said Pogačar. “I’d rather have a little bit more cold and even rain on the last climb. But even if it’s sunny, I will not mind it.”

However things play out in the weather department, Pogačar at least has an idea of what’s coming on the road. As he noted on Tuesday, he spent some time checking out the route ahead of the Tour – and it seemed like a challenging experience.

“I did the recon of tomorrow and the day after, so I know the climbs. It would be better if I’d not seen,” Pogačar said with a laugh. “I’m not worried, but it’s going to be a really hard day.”

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