Jonas Wingegaard takes over from Tour de France leader Tadej Pogacar

Jonas Wingegaard turned the Tour de France on its head on Wednesday with a sharp attack on the brutal final climb to win the race’s 11th stage and wrest the leader’s yellow jersey from Tadej Pogacar.

On the previous day’s climbs of the Col du Telegraph and Col du Galibier, Pogacar and Wingegar made attacks, neither of which managed to break away for long. Finished at the bottom of the last climb of the Col du Granon, almost all the main riders were gathered. In cage racing, some might have expected that there would be no major changes in the overall standings at the end of the day.

But that theory didn’t take into account the difficulty of the Granon, a punishing climb nearly 8,000 feet above sea level that had only been done once on the Tour, in 1986. Simply put, Wingegard thrived on it, while Pogacar did not.

With about three miles to go, Wingegard launched a fierce attack. And Pogacar, who has controlled the race since it began on July 1, surprisingly didn’t — or couldn’t — respond. Wingegaard caught a few riders who were on the way, rode Granon alone and finished on top of the mountain in impressive style.

An even more suspicious sight loomed over the mountain behind him: Pogacar was clearly suffering. He appeared to break in the final mile, came back and finished seventh today, 2min 51sec behind the winner. That put Wingegaard 2:16 ahead of France’s Romain Bardet, who had a strong day. Pogacar dropped to third place, now 2:22 behind.

Wingegaard, a 25-year-old Dane, burst onto the scene at last year’s Tour when he was an unlikely second at the finish of the event in Paris, 5 minutes behind favorite Pogacar. Still, ahead of this year’s race, he was overlooked as a potential champion behind Slovenia’s Pogakar and Primoz Roglic. But with Roglic missing for the first 10 days, Wingegaard’s strong effort made him a clear rival to Pogacar.

Pogacar, the two-time defending Tour de France champion, still has time to claim the three-peat. Thursday’s Alpine scene concludes with the signature Alpe d’Huez on Bastille Day. And there are tough stages in the Pyrenees next week, as well as a time trial on July 23, a day before the race in Paris. But Wingegaard definitely took advantage with the yellow jersey.

“It’s really incredible,” Wingegaard said after the scene. “It’s hard for me to convey the words. This is what I’ve been dreaming of. “

Of his many attacks, he said: “We wanted to make it a super hard race. We thought it was in my favor. “

Of Pogaccar, he added: “He was really strong at Galibier and knocked everyone else down, and I was a bit insecure about whether he would be full. And then on the last climb I thought, “If I don’t make mistakes, I’m not going to win.”

Pogacar, racing for UAE Team Emirates, shook Wingegaard’s hand with a smile after the race. But he had to be humbled by his own performance and wondered how he could catch Wingegaard in the coming days. What’s more, he lost two of his seven teammates during the race to Covid, which meant he didn’t need help in the high mountains.

“Tactically they did a really good job,” Pogacar said of Wingegard’s Jumbo Visma team. “It was difficult on the last climb. But we will see tomorrow. I want revenge. Le Tour is not over.”

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