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Tour de France

Tour de France stage 18: Jonas Vingegaard drops Tadej Pogačar to win on Hautacam

Jonas Vingegaard waited for Tadej Pogačar after a last-descent crash and then widened his grip on the yellow jersey.

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Jonas Vingegaard shrugged off repeated attacks by Tadej Pogačar, saved a near-crash on the final descent and then blitzed the summit finish of Hautacam to win stage 18 and strengthen his grip on the Tour de France yellow jersey.

In what was a hugely dramatic day of racing, the Danish rider crossed the line 1:04 clear of his big rival, who cracked with 4.4 kilometers remaining after Vingegaard’s teammate Wout van Aert set a ferocious pace.

Pogačar had surged multiple times during the stage, pushing the pace on both the uphills and the downhills in a number of unsuccessful attempts to break Vingegaard. After firing off numerous attacks on the Col de Spandelles, he tore down the descent and looked to have the yellow jersey under a little pressure when Vingegaard stubbed the ground with his pedal on a sweeping bend and almost crashed.

However it was Pogačar who made a big error, sliding out on a corner soon afterwards and ending up in the ditch. Vingegaard sportingly waited for him to return and, after shaking hands, they called a truce for the remainder of the downhill.

“I think he kind of missed the corner and then he went down into some gravel,” the race leader explained. “He tried to steer it out, then the bike disappeared under him. I waited for him.”

Also read: Vingegaard waits for Pogačar after crash

This truce allowed Vingegaard’s teammate Sepp Kuss to return and the American set a lightning pace on the final climb, bringing the group up to breakaway rider Van Aert, who turned up the dial even further. This cracked Pogačar and liberated Vingegaard, who extended his overall advantage to a likely-impregnable 3:26 heading into the final three days of racing.

“It is incredible,” he said after the podium presentation. “This morning I said to my girlfriend and my daughter that I wanted to win for them, and I did it. I am really happy and proud that I won for them. This one is really for my two girls at home.”

Asked what he was thinking crossing the line, he said it was relief. “I was just happy that it finally ended. It was incredible hard. Of course I am really, really happy that I won the stage. Now there are still two more days to come before we are in Paris. So we need to keep focused and we will take it day by day again.”

GC order falling into place

Geraint Thomas was distanced on the final climb and further delayed by a bike change, finishing 2:54 back in fourth place. However he holds his third place overall, albeit at eight minutes and well out of reach of yellow in Saturday’s time trial.

France’s David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) had a deeply satisfying day of racing, shaking off his GC rival Nairo Quintana (Arkéa Samsic) on the final climb and finishing fifth, 2:58 behind Vingegaard but 2:24 ahead of the Colombian. Gaudu overtakes him for fourth overall and has a buffer of 2:30 with three stages to go.

Teammate Thibaut Pinot did what he could to take France’s first stage win of this year’s Tour but faded on the last climb and was distanced by Van Aert and Dani Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers). He finished 10th, one place ahead of Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), who had an aggressive day of racing and moves up one place to sixth overall.

Vingegaard’s victory on the final climb saw him overtake longtime King of the Mountains leader Simon Geschke (Cofidis), who missed the day’s break and was unable to add any points to his total of 64. The German is now eight points behind Vingegaard and knowing it is mathematically impossible to retake the polka dot jersey, was in floods of tears at the finish.

In truth Vingegaard wasn’t aiming to take that jersey: everything is about yellow, and his now looks good to keep. He was praising of the efforts of those who backed him.

“Today I think I have to thank all my teammates … incredible. You could see Wout van Aert dropping Tadej Pogačar in the end. Sepp Kuss was incredible. Everyone was incredible. Tiesj [Benoot], Christophe [Laporte] and Nathan [Van Hooydonck]. They were all incredible today. Thanks so much to my teammates, I could never have done this without them.”

Still, he doesn’t want to tempt fate and presume that he has the Tour won. “I don’t want to talk about it yet,” he said when asked about the final overall victory. “There is also tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and then we are in Paris. So let’s talk about that in two days.”

The last climbing clash

Stage 18 of the Tour de France was the final day in the mountains of this year’s race, and covered 143.2 kilometers between Lourdes and the summit finish at Hautacam. An undulating opening 58.5 kilometers brought the riders to the day’s intermediate sprint, which was located at the start of the day’s first categorized climb, the hors categorie Col d’Aubisque (km 77.5).

That was followed by the first category Col de Spandelles (km 110.5), appearing for the first time in the Tour de France, and then, after a descent of approximately 18 kilometers, the final hors categorie climb.


It was a crucially important stage for the general classification riders, offering one final chance before Saturday’s time trial to consolidate or improve their overall position. That applied to Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), first and second in GC. It was also an important stage for the King of the Mountains competition, offering a fistful of points and defining the winner of that contest.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) was the day’s first attacker, going clear from the drop of the flag and briefly being joined by Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) before pushing on alone. Caught at kilometer 13, he surged again right away, but to no avail.

A group containing Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) and others moved ahead and had a lead of 27 seconds at kilometer 27. However the Cofidis team of King of the Mountains Simon Geschke was chasing hard and brought things back together by kilometer 33.

That work for the polka dot jersey was frustrated when 16 riders clipped away five kilometers later, with Geschke missing out. He tried to get across afterwards but was unable to do so, and missed subsequent chase groups which swelled the break’s numbers to 36 riders after 48 kilometers of racing.

They raced on to the intermediate sprint, where Van Aert took top points ahead of Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Victorious), Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) and the others.

The final Pyrenean mountains rear up

Heading onto the Aubisque, Geschke was on the back foot and trying to fight back. Conscious that big rival Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) was out front and also that he need to collect points before the final climbs, he set off in pursuit of the group. He was joined by Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), Enric Mas (Movistar), Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-KTM) and several others, all of whom were motivated to bridge across.

Behind, Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) jumped clear of the yellow jersey group in a bid to improve on his seventh place overall. The Arkéa Samsic team of Nairo Quintana, who had started the day 1:31 ahead of him in the general classification then began to lead the chase.

This increase in pace had the knock-on effect of catching Geschke, but the 19 leaders still at 2:55 over the yellow jersey group with two kilometers to go to the top of the Aubisque.

Ciccone went over the prime line first there, collecting the maximum 20 points ahead of Pinot and Van Aert. In doing so the 2019 Giro d’Italia King of the Mountains moved to within three points of Geschke.

On the descent a group containing Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers), Bob Jungels (Ag2r-Citröen), Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar Team) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) worked its way clear and joined the leaders.

Frantic efforts to break Vingegaard

The group was becoming excessively large but a selection was made on the Col de Spanelles, where 13 riders pressed ahead. These were Van Aert and Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma), Dani Martinez and Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers), Bob Jungels (AG2R-Citröen), Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-EasyPost), Giulio Ciccone and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Michael Woods (Israel-PremierTech). These were joined by Pinot with approximately 42 kilometers left.

Behind, things were heating up. Wednesday’s strongman Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) moved to the front of the yellow jersey group and put a number of big names in difficulty, shedding Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), Romain Bardet (Team DSM) plus several others.

Pogačar launched his first assault of the day and was immediately marked by the yellow jersey. He drove the pace for a while but once Kuss made his way back up to the duo the Slovenian sat back and let the American do the pacesetting. Thomas and others returned to the group, which at that point was 2:46 behind the leaders.

Pogačar launched again, firing off attacks two and three in quick succession but each time dialed back his effort when Vingegaard responded. This enabled Thomas to bridge across and he then attacked, moving clear on the climb due to the stall.

After more pacesetting by Kuss, Pogačar launched yet another big move and, with that, gapped Vingegaard for the first time on the stage. The Dane was left several bike lengths back but clawed his way back onto his rival’s wheel, with the surge in pace dropping Thomas and Meintjes. Pogačar continued hammering it out heading towards the summit, while ahead Van Aert leaped clear to snag maximum KOM points ahead of Martinez and Pinot.

Pogačar tried yet again going over the top. Vingegaard was again up to the task and covered it, but had a big scare on the descent when he clipped his pedal on the ground and almost crashed.

Pogačar kept looking for cracks and continued to take chances on the downhill, only to end up in trouble himself when he slid out on a corner. Vingegaard could have pressed his advantage but instead waited for him, easing off the pace until he could rejoin. They shook hands and appeared to call a temporary truce, with the pace easing right back and Thomas, Meintjes and Gaudu returning.

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) crashes on the descent of the Col de Spanelles on stage 18 of the 2022 Tour de France. (Screenshot from TV coverage of stage)

Kuss and Benoot were also there and the two Jumbo-Visma riders began setting the pace heading onto Hautacam and the final climbing showdown of the race.

Claiming yellow with a dominant performance

Kuss rode tempo on the final climb and whittled the group down to himself, Vingegaard, Pogačar and Thomas. Out front, Pinot was trying to break the other two, with Martinez coming through at times and Van Aert sitting on. The Belgian then launched a big attack with 9.1 kilometers to go and got an immediate gap, with only Martinez able to return.

Thomas was undone by Kuss’ pace with 7.4 kilometers left. Pinot was caught and dropped seconds later while, further down the slope, his teammate Gaudu was faring better, having distanced Quintana with an attack several kilometers earlier.

Kuss’ strong pacesetting was gradually running out of steam and he exploded once he led the group up to Van Aert with 5.3 kilometers left. Martinez also went backwards at that point, leaving just three out front.

Three then became two when a grimacing, suffering Van Aert dramatically cracked Pogačar with 4.4 kilometers remaining. The Belgian himself blew up with 3.7 kilometers left, launching Vingegaard towards the summit.

The yellow jersey gave it everything from there, face contorted with effort as he tried to gain every second possible. He put his hand on his heart close to the line and then blew a kiss crossing it, thinking of his family as he celebrated his success. Pogačar trailed in 1:04 back, while Van Aert was at 2:10, drained but elated.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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