Cycling: Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates need to show toughness as Tour enters mountain stage

Squad hold the possible edge over defending champion Jonas Vingegaard

UAE Team Emirates' Slovenian rider Tadej Pogacar at the head of the pelethon. - AFP

Published: Tue 4 Jul 2023, 9:34 PM

After a fine start in the Spanish Basque country, Tadej Pogacar's UAE Emirates team are heading to the first mountain block of the Tour de France brimming with confidence and a possible edge over defending champion Jonas Vingegaard.

Last year, Pogacar cracked under pressure from Vingegaard's Jumbo Visma team, who also boasted three-time Vuelta champion Primoz Roglic, and the Dutch outfit's double act worked wonders even if the Slovenian later abandoned.

Dane Vingegaard this year has to do without Roglic, who skipped the Tour after winning the Giro d'Italia, while UAE Emirates have recruited Adam Yates, who would be a likely leader in most other teams.


The Briton is the overall leader going into Wednesday's first mountain stage, a 162.5-km trek from Pau to Laruns, featuring the punishing Col de Soudet (15.2km at 7.2%) and Col de Marie Blanque (7.7km at 8.6%).

Pogacar is in second place, six seconds behind, with Vingegaard a further 11 seconds adrift after the 24-year-old Slovenian picked up bonus seconds along the way.

His aggressive style of racing will this year be supported by a team who have more firepower than last year with Yates, a rejuvenated Rafal Majka and Austrian Felix Grosschartner, who joined during the close season.

While Jumbo Visma started the Tour with two leaders in Vingegaard and Roglic last year, the pecking order at UAE Emirates is crystal clear.

"In the end Tadej is the leader, he's our man for (the title in) Paris. We'll see the kind of legs we have in the mountains," Yates, who won the opening stage in Bilbao last Saturday, told reporters.

"So far I've been feeling pretty good so we'll see what we can do," he added, pointing out Jumbo Visma's potential weakness -- which was UAE Emirates's in the previous edition.

"If you only have one leader anything can happen. Having two guys, at least there's more safety in the mountains, you have two options, two cards to play and that's been the plan from the beginning," he said.

Yates has been enjoying his three days in yellow but he knows he might have to surrender it soon.

"It has been great to have it in the last few days," he said.

"In the end the only one (yellow) jersey that matters is the one in Paris. I came to the team to help Tadej on the Tour and here I am. It's been fantastic but I signed for Tadej on the Tour."

Belgian Jasper Philipsen won his second successive Tour de France stage amid scenes of chaos as several riders hit the ground on the final circuit.

Australian Caleb Ewan took second place and German Phil Bauhaus finished third in the fourth stage, a 182km ride from Dax, with Briton Adam Yates retaining the overall leader's yellow jersey.

After the peloton rode at a snail's pace most of the day, things got hectic in the finale on the Paul Armagnac racing track, near the vineyards that once belonged to 1973 Tour champion Luis Ocana of Spain.

With just over 1.5 kilometre to go, European champion Fabio Jakobsen hit the deck on a right-hand bend, with his Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl team mate Julian Alaphilippe saying the riders were caught by surprise by the turns.

More riders crashed inside the final kilometre, but nothing could derail Philipsen, who again benefited from a perfect lead-out to become the first sprinter to secure back-to-back victories on the Tour since Dylan Groenewegen in 2018.

Philipsen took the green jersey for the points classification leader from France's Victor Lafay.

"Caleb was just next to me he was close to beating me in the end. It's very special to win twice in a row," said Philipsen, who again stayed in Mathieu van der Poel's slipstream until his final effort.

"It's my first time on a car racing track. It was odd. I hope the guys who crashed are OK."

Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish was unable to make history on stage 4 In a chaotic finale to the stage, there were crashes galore with plenty of riders hitting the deck. Cavendish has seen a lot over the years but even he was shocked by the crazy final kilometre.

“That was a bloodbath," the experienced Astana Qazaqstan Team sprinter told Eurosport in a post-stage interview. "Every team had a plan for that final and I'm willing to bet not one of them went right, except Jumbo started those narrow roads at the front.

"It was a real mix of riders in the final and I was constantly analyzing who was there and who had teammates with them," Cavendish continued. "Then I saw that Mads Pedersen had Jasper Stuyven with him. He usually starts the sprint early and there was a headwind finish and long straights on a wide road. I thought I'd take advantage of that."

Published: Tue 4 Jul 2023, 9:34 PM

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