Dubai: UAE Team Emirates rider Tadej Pogacar managed to cling on to his overall podium placing heading into the penultimate stage of the Tour de France, late on Friday.
Pogacar, who has been trailing countryman Primoz Roglic through a major part of this year’s Tour, finished safely in the main peloton, 7:38 behind stage winner to enjoy a relatively quiet stage before Saturday’s decisive 36km time trial to La Planches des Belles Filles.
With the leaders preferring to remain in the background, it was time for Team Sunweb rider Soren Kragh Andersen to excel as he smashed his way to another stage victory in Champagnole. The Danish rider, who turned 26 last month, attacked alone with 16 kms to go to time trial to the finish.
Roglic will now start Saturday’s time trial with a lead of 57 seconds on Pogacar, while Astana’s Miguel Angel chases down the Slovenian duo in third overall at 1:27.
Andersen became the fourth rider with two stage wins this year after Wout van Aert, Caleb Ewan and UAE Team Emirates rider, Pogacar. Boosted by his win in Lyon, the Dane went for another solo ride but a longer one this time as he escaped a 12-man leading group including the three green jersey contenders Bennett, Peter Sagan and Matteo Trentin with 16km to go.
Teammate Nikias Arndt tried to make it a 1-2 for Sunweb after the 1-2 by Ineos the day before, but Mezgec delivered another stage podium finish for Slovenia. His compatriots Roglic and Pogacar came safely home to retain the first two positions in the overall ranking ahead of the much-anticipated individual time trial to La Planche des belles files on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Diego Ulissi put down a strong marker on Stage 4 of the Skoda Tour of Luxembourg on Friday with the veteran UAE Team Emirates rider claiming a second stage win in a reduced group sprint between four riders.
After much work in the crosswinds early on from the ever-present Oliveira twins, the puncheur went clear with 7kn to go in a group containing fellow race favourite Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) before taking his second win of the race.
“Today’s stage was very hard. We were fighting crosswinds all day. The team kept me out of trouble and set me up well on the last climb. I attacked with 10 kms to go with a group with Wellens. My legs are feeling great and I hope to hang on to the overall lead tomorrow. After the work the team did today, I feel confident about it,” Ulissi said.
On Saturday, the team will aim to defend the jersey on the final stage from Mersch to Luxembourg city covering a distance of 177km.
Tour de France Stage 19
1. Soren Kragh Andersen, (Sunweb) 3:36.33
2. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) +53
3. Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) same time
1. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 83:29.41
2. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +57s
3. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro) +1:27s
Tour of Luxembourg Stage 4
1. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) 4:45.23
2. Aime De Gendt (Circus Wanty) same time
3. Markus Hoelgaard (Uno-X) same time
1. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) 12:24.07
2. Aime De Gendt (Circus Wanty) +17s
3. Markus Hoelgaard (Uno-X) +19s