Jonas Vingegaard is on the verge of reclaiming the Tour de France title after expanding his advantage on stage 17.
The Dane surged up the final climb of the Tour’s queen stage, but his closest adversary, Tadej Pogacar, collapsed.
Pogacar, a two-time winner, was dropped with 15 kilometers to go and told his team radio, “I’m gone, I’m dead.”
Felix Gall won the stage by 34 seconds over Britain’s Simon Yates, with Vingegaard finishing fourth.
Stage 17 – as it occurred
Vingegaard had increased his advantage from 10 seconds to nearly two minutes in the individual time trial on Tuesday’s stage 16, but this feels like a crucial blow in what has been a thrilling duel.
He kissed his hand as he crossed the finish line in Courchevel and currently leads Pogacar by seven minutes and 35 seconds with three stages remaining before the processional stage to Paris on Sunday.
“I’m relieved to have more than seven minutes, but we’re still not in Paris; there are some tricky stages left,” Vingegaard said.
“It was the day when the route was announced that we said was going to be our day, the day when we wanted to flip the Tour and make it really difficult,” his Jumbo-Visma sports director Griescha Niermann remarked.
“That did happen, though we did not expect it to happen in this manner.” I believe Jonas won the Tour today, barring any misfortune.”
Pogagar cracked 8 kilometers from the peak of the massive Col de la Loze, the race’s highest climb at 2,034 meters.
Pogacar had been by Vingegaard’s side for the majority of the Tour, but he could no longer keep up, and the Slovenian told his UAE team to focus on keeping Adam Yates on the podium instead.
Pogacar’s face was etched with pain when he eventually crossed the line, six minutes after Vingegaard, with his jersey unzipped, and he also had a cut knee from a minor incident earlier in the day.
Vingegaard had a snag as well, being held up by a stalled motorcycle that had brought an organiser’s car to a halt and blocked the road in the final kilometres, but he zig-zagged through it and kept riding strong.
Adam Yates remains third in the overall rankings, while twin brother Simon’s performance moves him up to fifth overall.
Simon Yates and Gall were part of a 33-man escape with more than 100 kilometers remaining, with Austrian rider Gall attempting a solo assault on the way up the Col de la Loze and staying clear to the finish.
Stage 17 results
1. Felix Gall (Aut/AG2R-Citroen) 4hrs 49mins
2. Simon Yates (GB/Team Jayco-AlUla) +34secs
3. Pello Bilbao (Spa/Bahrain Victorious) +1min 38secs
4. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Jumbo-Visma +1min 52secs
5. David Gaudu (Fra/Groupama-FDJ) +2min 9secs
6. Tobias Johannessen (Nor/Uno-X) +2min 39secs
7. Chris Harper (Aus/Team Jayco-AlUla) +2min 50secs
8. Rafal Majka (Pol/UAE Team Emirates) +3min 43secs
9. Adam Yates (GB/UAE Team Emirates) +3min 43secs
10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned/Jumbo-Visma) +3min 49secs
General classification after stage 17
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Jumbo-Visma) 67hrs 57mins 51secs
2. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) +7min 35secs
3. Adam Yates (GB/UAE Team Emirates) +10mins 45secs
4. Carlos Rodriguez Cano (Spa/Ineos Grenadiers) +12mins 1sec
5. Simon Yates (GB/Team Jayco-AlUla) +12mins 19secs
6. Pello Bilbao (Spa/Bahrain Victorious) +12mins 50secs
7. Jai Hindley (Aus/Bora-Hansgrohe) +13mins 50secs
8. Felix Gall (Aut/AG2R) +16mins 11secs
9. Sepp Kuss (US/Jumbo-Visma) +16mins 49secs
10. David Gaudu (Fra/Groupama-FDJ) +17mins 57secs