Tour de France: Tadej Pogačar sends message on return to Belles Filles

Tadej Pogačar puts early stranglehold on yellow jersey on emotional return to scene of his dramatic 2020 time trial victory.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

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RONCHAMP, France (VN) — When Tadej Pogačar saw the 2022 Tour de France returned to the Planche des Bells Filles, he put a circle around the stage.

The steeper-as-it-goes climb lost deep in the French Vosges is where Pogačar pulled off one of cycling’s greatest heists when he dethroned compatriot and rival Primož Roglič in the final time trial to catapult into yellow.

With his family and fiancé waiting on the climb, Pogačar went to work on his GC rivals, and powered past Jonas Vinegaaard in the closing meters to win for the second day in a row.

There was no way he was going to let anyone else win on the mountain where he carved his growing reputation as the peloton’s newest GC dominator.

“I had this stage already in mind for many months,” Pogačar said. “When I saw the presentation of the Tour, I knew I wanted to win again on this mountain.”

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The 23-year-old is proving yet again that his emergence as the Tour’s newest and strongest boss in the peloton is no fluke.

Anyone who might have argued that he got “lucky” in 2020 is now eating crow.

Pogačar came roaring into his title defense and put a winning bookend of what’s a near-perfect first week.

“For me it was a really great seven days, two stage wins, and the yellow jersey,” he said, before cautioning about celebrating too soon.

“This Tour is far from finished,” Pogačar said. “We saw many guys super strong, and next week we have many mountains. Today it was only one climb in the end with 20-minute effort. Still there are not huge gaps, but I am confident and we will do everything to do defend the yellow jersey.”

Pogačar’s UAE Team Emirates did a great job to chaperone him back to the scene of one of his greatest exploits. Brandon McNulty, George Bennett, and then Raja Majka took pulls that decimated the group behind them.

When Majka pulled off just ahead of the top finishing gravel sector, there were not many rival riders behind him.

Vingegaard confirmed he is the most dangerous, and nearly pipped Pogačar for what would have been his first stage win. Roglič was third to reveal that at least for now he can handle the short, intense efforts after his high-profile spill on the cobbles.

Ineos Grenadiers kept four in the top-10, but they’re further back than at the start of the day.

Pogačar reconfirming his dominance one week into the Tour de France

Tadej Pogačar leads the way to his second straight win. (Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Only Vingegaard remains within one minute of Pogačar at the end of the Tour’s first week.

Pogačar said he also wanted to win to bring attention to a new cancer-research foundation that he is starting in Slovenia. One of Pogačar’s girlfriend’s family members died this spring, and Pogačar wants to use his growing profile to help.

“We want to take this stage win,” he said. “I wore special shoes for a new cancer research foundation we are starting. It was a big day for me my family and I wanted to win this stage on this special day.”

Everyone else was left choking on the dust in his wake.

It was here, nearly two years ago when he overcame a 57-second difference to Roglič in a climbing time trial to win his first yellow jersey.

Friday’s stage finished higher up on the mountain than where the 2020 time trial concluded, and traced over a steep sector of gravel that saw the final throes of the stage battle.

Flash forward to 2022, Pogačar is no longer the “new kid on the block,” and Friday’s stage confirmed that he is the new patron.

What Pogačar wants, Pogačar gets. No one’s been able to stop him yet.

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