Is Jonas Vingegaard—Not Tadej Pogačar—Now the Favourite to Win the 2024 Tour de France?

Vingegaard made a major statement on Stage 11 and - despite over a minute deficit in the overall standings - he may have Pogačar on the ropes. 


BY WHIT YOST |

On Monday’s rest day, we said that the 2024 Tour de France was Tadej Pogačar’s (UAE Team Emirates) “race to lose.” Well, if Stage 11 was any indication, he might be losing it after all.

While the Tour’s General Classification looked similar to what it was heading into the day, what happened on the road told a much different story. After his UAE Team Emirates team set a ferocious pace throughout much of the 211km stage from Évaux-les-Bains to Le Lioran, Pogačar attacked right where everyone expected he would: on the steep upper slopes of the Category 1 Puy Mary climb, about 33km from the finish of the stage.

The Slovenian immediately accelerated away from his rivals, scattering them along the road behind him. And for a few seconds it looked as if the two-time Tour de France champion was about to ride away and take his third. (I even shouted at my TV, “Well, there goes the Tour!”)

But a funny thing happened on the way to the final podium in Nice: Pogačar faltered.

The Slovenian hit the bottom of the Puy Mary with about half a minute on Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Slovenia’s Primož Roglič (Red Bull-BORA-hansgrohe), but on the next climb, he failed to extend it. And worse for the Slovenian, Vingegaard, slowly began eating into his lead.

You could see the strain–and perhaps the concern–on Pogačar’s face as he powered up the day’s penultimate climb, the Category 2 Col de Pertus. Usually someone who rides with a slight grin, a smirk even, Pogačar was grimacing, at one point waving his arm in frustration at a neutral support motorbike. Did he need water? Was something wrong with his bike? Perhaps we’ll never know. But we did know that Pogačar wasn’t extending his lead, in fact, it was steadily going down.

Stage 11 of the 2024 Tour de France
Photo: A.S.O./Billy Ceusters

Then, minutes later, the unthinkable happened: Vingegaard–who had since dropped Roglič–caught the race leader. Pogačar has won a bucketload of races by himself this season–including six stages and the overall at the Giro d’Italia–is not a rider who gets caught once he attacks. The gap to second-place might not always be huge, but once Pogačar is gone, he’s gone for good.

But not on Stage 11. Vingegaard–the Tour’s two-time defending champion–clawed his way back to the Slovenian before the top of the Col de Pertus. And while Pogačar still won the sprint at the top of the climb to take a few bonus seconds, the damage had already been done: after several attempts to try and ride away with the 2024 Tour de France before the race enters the high mountains–and in doing so essentially eliminate Vingegaard before the Dane has a chance to race on his favored terrain–Pogačar had failed.

To make matters worse, Vingegaard–in a major psychological blow to the Slovenian–out-sprinted Pogačar at the stage finish in Le Lioran, despite giving Pogačar a slight advantage by leading out the two-up sprint to the line.

In winning the stage, Vingegaard–who almost missed the 2024 Tour de France after breaking some bones and puncturing a lung in a horrible crash in early-April–silenced those who wondered if he had the form to win a third consecutive Tour de France. (To his credit, Pogačar always knew that he did.) And now–just 1:14 behind Pogačar two days before the race enters the Pyrenees–it’s not a stretch to say that Vingegaard is in the Tour’s driver’s seat.

Of course, Pogačar still has the yellow jersey and the strongest team in the Tour de France. But he no longer has a mental edge over Vingegaard, and worse, the Dane is now firmly in the head of Slovenian, where he will likely live rent-free until Pogačar proves able to crack him–if he’s even able to crack him.

Pogačar loves chasing seconds!”

Near the end of the stage, commentator Phil Liggett made an interesting remark: “Pogačar loves chasing seconds!” Liggett was referring to the bonus seconds available at the finish line in Le Lioran, but after Stage 11 there might be a much more ominous meaning for Pogačar and his team. After spending half of the race chasing seconds–yet failing to put minutes between himself and his greatest threat to winning the 2024 Tour de France–second might end up being the best that Pogačar can hope for.

READ MORE ON: 2024 Tour de France jonas vingegaard tadej pogacar Tour de France

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