Right now, I’m doing well, but after the stage is over, I don’t know,” Pogacar said before the stage. “The final ascent is going to be really explosive,” he predicted. “The last 4K is going to be really brutal.” This has been proven.
Puy de Dôme, a dormant volcano, was long thought to be too cramped to hold thousands of spectators, as well as motorcycles, team cars, television cameras, and the rest of the modern touring infrastructure. Sunday’s return after 35 years was made possible in part by keeping spectators away for the last few miles.
Eight minutes ahead of the two big riders, Michael Woods, a 36-year-old Canadian, was winning the stage after chasing American Matthew Jorgenson. “I can’t believe I did it,” he said of his stage one win. Referring to the unusual absence of viewers near the end, he said, “It was deafening until 4K hit, and then all of a sudden, silence.” “It’s an iconic, beautiful climb,” he added.
But the battle for the overall Tour win was to resume further down the mountain.
Pogacar attacked with about a mile of hard climb to go. He got a small hiatus on Vingegaard, as the other members of their group faded away. Pogacar kept pressing and the gap widened to five seconds. But Pogacar needed 25. He eventually gained eight seconds and is now 17 seconds behind overall. The third-place margin was increased by Australia’s Jay Hindley by more than 1 minute to 2 minutes 40 seconds.
“It’s not a victory, but a small one,” Pogacar said. “I was a little scared. The guys were telling me, ‘It’s so hard, it’s so steep.’ But actually, today we were flying uphill, so I didn’t feel that steep.”