“I feel good now, but I won’t know when the stage is over,” Pogacar said before the stage. “The final climb is going to be a real blast,” he expected. “His 4K at the end is going to be really brutal.” And it’s proven.
An extinct volcano, the Puy de Dome was long considered too small to accommodate thousands of spectators, plus bikes, team cars, television cameras and other modern tool infrastructure. Sunday’s return for the first time in 35 years was partly due to the absence of spectators in the final miles.
Eight minutes ahead of the Big 2 riders, 36-year-old Canadian Michael Woods edged out American Matteo Jorgenson to win the stage. “I can’t believe I did it,” he said of his first stage victory. He noted that he was unusually empty of spectators towards the end, saying, “It was deafening until about 4K left, and then all of a sudden it went silent.” He added, “It’s an iconic climb and it’s beautiful.”
But the battle for the overall Tour title was about to resume far down the mountain.
Pogacar attacked on a tough climb with about a mile to go. When the rest of their group melted away, he narrowly edged Vinzigard. Pogacar kept the pressure on and the gap widened to five seconds. But Pogacar needed him 25 seconds. In the end he was 8 seconds off of him and overall he was 17 seconds behind. The gap with Jay Hindley (Australia) in 3rd place widened by more than a minute to 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
“It’s not a victory, but it’s a small victory,” Pogacar said. “I was a little scared. But I was actually flying uphill today, so it didn’t feel that steep. ”