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Pogačar wins the 7th stage of the Tour de France and increases his lead to 35 seconds

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Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar, wearing the general classification leader’s yellow jersey, drinks as he rides through the peloton during the 176.5-kilometre (109.7-mile) seventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race starting in Tomblaine and arrival at La Super Planche des Belles Filles, France, Friday, July 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

PA

From the moment Tadej Pogačar heard that the Tour de France would return to the top of La Planche des Belles Filles this year, he wanted to win there again.

The Slovenian pulled through on Friday in a biting finish on the steep gravel slope of the mountain where he took the yellow jersey for the first time in 2020.

Victory on the first summit finish of this year’s Tour extended his lead after he regained the yellow jersey on Thursday.

“It was already in my head for a very, very long time, maybe since the route was already (revealed). It was a very big goal to win today,” Pogačar said.

Pogačar caught, first, Lennard Kämna, who came awfully close to a breakaway victory, then Jonas Vingaard with a final sprint to the top of La Planche des Belles Filles, a ski resort in the eastern Vosges of France, near the German border. . Pogačar had his family under surveillance and had added motivation to win to mark the launch of his own cancer research foundation on Friday.

“It was really, really difficult, especially at the end, the last part. When Jonas attacked, he was so strong,” Pogačar said. “I had to push to the finish line.”

He started the 176 kilometer (109 mile) stage four seconds ahead of Neilson Powless and finished it with a 35 second advantage over Vingaard. “A little is always good, but we still know that in cycling no gap is enough,” said Pogačar, who hailed Danish rider Vingaard as “probably the best climber in the world” at the ‘actual hour.

Geraint Thomas, the 2018 Tour winner, was third, 1 minute, 10 seconds back, and his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Adam Yates was 8 seconds further behind.

American rider Powless, Aleksandr Vlasov and Daniel Martinez were among the general classification contenders who lost time.

Kämna, who took a stunning stage win in the Alps in 2020, was part of a seven-man breakaway heading into the mountains and clung to the lead solo for almost all of the final three kilometres. He placed fourth behind Pogačar, Vinegaard and teammate Primož Roglič, who was racing in pain after dislocating his shoulder when he crashed into a straw bale on Wednesday.

“The pain after my crash the day before yesterday is no excuse for me and I refuse to give up. I will keep fighting no matter what. The recovery will get better day by day,” a- he declared.

The mountain reaches a 24% gradient near the top and the last section is on gravel, making it one of the toughest climbs on the Tour. The mountain was the site of Pogačar’s breakout moment on the 2020 Tour, when he took the yellow jersey from fellow Slovenian Roglič on the penultimate stage of a time trial and won the race. Pogačar won the Tour again in 2021.

It’s the second time Pogačar has completed consecutive stages after winning stages 17 and 18 in the Pyrenees last year.

Saturday’s eighth stage is a hilly 186-kilometre course between Dole in eastern France and Lausanne in Switzerland.

The race ends on July 24 in Paris.

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