Island tour

Pogačar wins the 6th stage of the Tour and takes the yellow jersey

title=

Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, wearing the white jersey of the best young rider, waits during the signing ceremony before the start of the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 220 kilometers (136.7 miles) with start in Binche and finish in Longwy , France, Thursday, July 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

PA

Tadej Pogačar is back in the yellow jersey of the Tour de France. And it may even be sooner than he expected.

En route to his victories in the 2020 and 2021 Tours, Pogačar took the yellow jersey in the mountains, but on Thursday all he was missing was the modest hill of the Coast of Nuns in the border town of Longwy.

Asked about the prospect of being back in yellow, which was not confirmed when speaking, Pogačar said in televised comments that he was focused on winning the stage for now and that “everything else is just a bonus”.

After an imposing sixth stage of almost 220 kilometers (137 miles) through Belgium and northern France – the longest of this year’s Tour – Pogačar pulled away in the finish in a sprint on the crest of the Côte des Religieuses to claim its first stage victory this year. by David Gaudu and Michael Matthews on Thursday.

Pogačar now leads the Tour four seconds ahead of American rider Neilson Powless, thanks to bonus seconds based on stage classifications.

“Every time I win it’s even better,” Pogačar said. “We climbed the last two climbs very hard, it was above our thresholds. It was super hard for the final climb and choppy and everything. Guess I had good legs to push off at the end.

Wout Van Aert was the leader going into the stage and was the center of attention with a breakaway, but was caught with 11 kilometers to go. Van Aert crashed in the last hilly part of the stage and eventually lost more than seven minutes.

This is the first time Pogačar has worn yellow on the Tour after taking the lead on stage 20 in 2020 and stage eight last year.

Friday sees the first mountain stage of the Tour and a return to a place where the UAE Team Emirates rider made his name. The 176-kilometre seventh stage runs from Tomblaine to a summit finish on La Planche des Belles Filles, where he took victory to take the yellow jersey from fellow Slovenian Primož Roglič on the penultimate stage of 2020.

Despite the imposing length of the stage, the pace was relentless from the start.

Van Aert, Quinn Simmons and Jakob Fuglsang broke away and had a four minute gap with the peloton at one point but were gradually caught. Fuglsang fell back and the advantage had fallen to two minutes with 50 kilometers to go. Simmons couldn’t keep up with Van Aert, who held his lead steady at just over a minute with 25 kilometers to go, but the Belgian no longer had enough energy to stay ahead on the repeated climbs.

Pogačar said he thought Van Aert could take the stage win on his own and credited his team’s “incredible good work” in putting him in a position to challenge for the stage win on the Arrival uphill from the Côte des Religieuses.

Van Aert had been in the lead since stage two on Saturday, with an impressive run of races and a stage win along the way. The Belgian will now swap his yellow jersey for the green leader of the sprint classification.

“For sure the yellow jersey is more beautiful than the green one but I liked the yellow one and I will like the green one too,” he said. “At the end of the day, we were only three in front, so I was well aware that it would be a mission to stay up there until the end. But I wanted to honor the Yellow Jersey and share this moment with the public.

___

More AP Sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports