Gravel Chaos at Tour de France: Tadej Pogačar Claims “I Think Vingegaard Is Afraid of Me”

Stage 9's gravel sectors wreaked havoc on riders with numerous flats and mechanical issues. Despite it all, Pogačar remained confident. 


BY MICAH LING |

Yesterday’s Stage 9 of the Tour de France alone was enough to earn everyone a rest day. Ahead of the stage—with plenty of hills and 14 gravel sectors—2024 Unbound Gravel winner Lachlan Morton (EF Education-EasyPost) gave riders some tips. He suggested having fun, going around the rocks instead of over them to keep the air in the tires and avoid carnage as much as possible. Still, there was carnage, plenty of flats, and probably not a whole lot of fun, but riders survived.

Following the challenging day on the saddle, there were plenty of spicy and interesting comments from the “Big Four.”

“I think Vingegaard is afraid of me.”

“I think Vingegaard is afraid of me,” said Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) after the race. Despite earlier comments that the smartest ride on Stage 9 would be “a careful one,” the race leader seemed fairly comfortable on the gravel and even tried to make some moves.

And just like after Stage 4, Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) mentioned his stature compared to Pogačar’s.

“Tadej, on the gravel sections, was the strongest. It favours him more than it favours me, especially when it was more loose, a guy with my weight, and it’s not favourable. When he got a small gap on me, it was probably the worst sector, in the case of the gravel. It was so loose that I was sliding around, to be honest. It was really hard for me to control the bike.”

And while there’s been plenty of criticism around Vingegaard’s lack of aggression in his tactics, he also hasn’t lost time. “It was a very, very stressful day. I’m just happy to make it through safely,” said Vingegaard. The former two-time Tour winner also said he opposed the inclusion of gravel sectors in the race.

After his bike experienced mechanical malfunctions, Jan Tratnik provided his team leader with a major assist by giving Vingegaard his own bike to continue the race with just under 100 km to go. Vingegaard rode the entire rest of the stage on the borrowed ride and even cooled down on it.

With 80 km to go, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) made an attack that pulled Vingegaard and Pogačar with him. This left Primož Roglič (Red Bull-Bora Hansgrohe) in a chase group behind. But in a post-race interview, Evenepoel was disappointed that Vingegaard didn’t seem interested in working with the breakaway.

“It was a pity Jonas didn’t work with us because the race could have been over,” Evenepoel said. “I think Tadej and I were not happy with it because maybe the whole Tour could have been decided today.”

Evenepoel said after the podium ceremony, having received the white jersey again. “We have to accept race tactics and race situations, but sometimes you also need the balls to race, and unfortunately, maybe Jonas didn’t have them today. But it’s no problem – the race is still very long, and I totally accept why he didn’t pull or race.”

Green jersey and double-stage winner Biniam Girmay (Intermarché–Wanty) said that the gravel wasn’t the only thing that made the stage difficult; it was also the climbing. “Today, it was different than it was on the profile. We expected it was going to be a gravel race on paper, but we had really steep climbs. The sectors are also different than we did a couple of months ago in the recons.

“We expected to be arriving with 40-50 guys, but I think it surprised me, especially after the first two sectors when we reached the intermediate sprint. There was like a real wall of a climb there.”

Tuesday will be a return to the pavement and another chance for the sprinters. Then we’re back in the mountains for Stage 11 and a trip up Puy Mary Pas de Peyrol.

READ MORE ON: 2024 Tour de France gravel stage Tour de France

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