5km to go: Geraint Thomas starting to lose nearly a minute on the two leaders, while David Gaudu is going to get fourth from Nairo Quintana if it stays this way. Looking back down the road from the green jersey, the yellow jersey is visible, and Van Aert drops back take over from Kuss as pacemaker. Vingegaard will take polka if he finishes first or second at the summit. Poor Simon Geschke back in the grupetto is set to lose his prized possession.
6km to go: Van Aert seems to slow up, Martinez clinging on behind him, the gap at 36 seconds, with Kuss finally running out of gas. The longer this group stays together, the less chance Pogacar has to attack. But the plan seems to be for Vingegaard to attack. He has the manpower around him to engineer that but Jumbo-Visma may be setting up Van Aert for the stage win, too. They have plenty of cards to play.
7km to go: Thomas is dropping off Kuss, Vingegaard and Pogacar, as that trio speeds uop the Hautacam, passing a stricken Thibaut Pinot. The French are not going to end their stage-win drought here.
8km to go: Van Aert flips his elbow, and asks Martinez to do his turn. The Colombian acquiesces. Van Aert wants polka dot as well as the green jersey he can already call his own.
Van Aert attacks!
9km to go: The pace Kuss is riding along may soon see the GC group catch up the trio at the front. It’s running Pogacar into the red zone, draining his ability to chase down Vingegaard, to mount another of those wildcat attacks. Van Aert though decides to go off the front, and with that, Pinot’s chance looks to have gone, and it’s only Martinez who can stay with him.
Updated at 16.21 BST
10km to go: Pinot asks his fellow travellers up the top to race alongside him, to take a turn. He drenches himself in water, but Van Aert and Martinez sit grim-faced behind him as he tries to ride them away. Is he bluffing? Does he have the legs? Behind him down the mountain, Sepp Kuss is pacing Vingegaard along and it’s Pogacar’s turn to hold the wheel. The gap is closing, Pinot’s pace is far slower than that of Kuss. Louis Meintjes will not be troubling Geraint Thomas for the podium; he’s toiling back down the hill.
12km to go: Meintjes goes off the back, but only to collect a bottle ahead of the climb. Thomas will be watching him like a hawk. Benoot and Kuss sit up the front of that group, Jumbo-Visma setting the pace. Up at the top, Pinot has a turn off the front, testing the legs of Martinez and Van Aert. Two races at one here, though Benoot’s day is done.
Here comes the Hautacam
Dani Martinez, Thibaut Pinot and Wout van Aert reach the bottom of the hill, and there is a stage win, a polka jersey and perhaps, in Van Aert’s case, the chance to land a GC win for Vingegaard. Louis Meintjes, chasing down Geraint Thomas’s third place, has joined the group of GC contenders.
15km to go: Up ahead, Van Aert, with two minutes on the chasing GC contenders, has a chance of the polka-dot jersey if he wins the stage. So too does Thibaut Pinot, to rescue something from a disappointing Tour. Vingegaard and Pogacar are joined soon enough by Kuss, Benoot and Thomas, who continues to hang on limpet-like to his place on the podium.
17km to go: All credit goes to Vingegaard and Pogacar seems to recognise that, even if his team aren’t so empathetic. They reach the bottom of the hill, and soon enough the Hautacam will beckon. Their slow pace down the descent has pulled backed in the likes of Kuss and Tiesj Benoot, in Jumbo jerseys, to push Vingegaard along.
Updated at 16.06 BST
22km to go: Pogacar is on his radio, possibly requesting a new bike, his steed looks to have failed him. And the team care comes alongside him, offering a bottle after a short discussion. He seems to be angry with his team, as if they are asking him to attack someone he has just enjoyed a moment of brotherhood with. Ironically enough, Eurosport have turned to Alberto Contador for expert summarising. He describes it as a “historic moment”, but then says falling off is part of the race and the risk.
Pogacar crashes on the descent!
28km to go: Oh dear, that was almost very nasty, as Vingegaard almost comes a cropper, but then Pogacar actually comes off, and there will be road rash. Pogacar gets back on, gingerly, though rides like a demon to get back on, and Vingegaard sits up for his rival, and when they meet, there is a touch of hands
This was no Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador scenario. There is clear respect between the riders and they ease off in their chase down the hill, both recognising the danger involved. What a moment of sportsmanship.
33km to go: Pogacar’s pace means Tiesj Benoot, who had gone up the road to assist his leader, can’t keep up, and gets cracked. Meintjes, who had designs on a podium finish, with Thomas behind him on the road, also fails to live with the speed. Sepp Kuss can also offer little more in the way of assistance.
Van Aert, Dani Martinez and Thibaut Pinot are the three riders who go over top of the climb, Van Aert taking the mountain points and speeding down the Col de Spandelles. Through a hairpin bend covered by trees, Pogacar, with Vingegaard on his tail, go over the brow and they can begin their descent. The Hautacam is where it will be decided.
Thomas and Pogacar both attack
35km to go: Pogacar, once Kuss joins them, is hosed down by a rider he passes by, and then once Thomas joins the group, speeds on, and tries his best to shed Kuss, who then catches up again. The aim seems to be the speed up and slow down to shed Vingegaard and Kuss, in a game of cat and mouse. Then he slows down, allows Kuss and Thomas to rejoin him. Then off goes Thomas, up the hill, and stretching the field. Vingegaard looks highly stressed by all this happening around him. But can he be cracked? Pogacar goes off, and speeds past Thomas, with Vingegaard on the limit as he chases. Ciccone, the king of the mountains that never was, gets eaten up. The pace is relentless, deadly for those around them.
Pogacar goes off at the front!
38km to go: Van Aert has clearly been on the radio, and is doing his best to get over the top so that he can be there to aid Vingegaard later on. The result of that is that Ciccone has cracked, and that means Geschke, at the back of the field now and suffering, may yet find himself in polka at the end of the day. Ciccone is looking for Mollema, but no avail, the best-laid plans have been skewered by Van Aert. With McNulty winding it up in the GC group, the likes of Thomas and Yates are clinging on for dear life.
McNulty lifts the pace, but then sits back as his team leader goes away. Vingegaard reads the move, and sits off Pogacar, as the rest of the field is blown away as the dynamic duo power on. Pogacar is trying to isolate Vingegaard from his teammates. A glance back tells him Sepp Kuss can catch him up, and that he has Vingegaard out of the saddle, but that he is all on his own up this climb and then the Hautacam.
40km to go: It’s a 10km to go, a category one, and Ciccone and Mollema continue together, and Ciccone needs to finish fourth at the summit to overtake Geschke to take the mountains jersey. That looks more than likely. Back in the overall GC race, this is where the pack is likely to be split. Brandon McNulty takes up the pace, and attempts to do what he did yesterday, to shred the field. An early victim is Tom Pidcock, who soon spins off the back, unable to hold any wheels. McNulty blasts along, and plenty of bottles are being shed, with Jumbo-Visma’s people offering up bottles to their own men, but Geraint Thomas gets refused when asking for one. Gamesmanship. Vlasov’s dreams of climbing the GC are crushed by the pace of McNulty.
Updated at 15.19 BST
45km to go: The Col de Spandelles approaches, and perhaps this is the moment for Pogacar.
Updated at 15.05 BST
50km to go: The peloton is led over the Col du Soulor by Nathan Van Hooydonck of the Jumbotron, with Pogacar and Vingegaard at close quarters. Ciccone is having a dig off the front of the leading pack while Nairo Quintana, a daredevil descender, is leading an attack on the descent. Pogacar goes with him, Vingegaard asked to follow.
55km to go: Down they fly to another short climb. The view of the mountains at the top of the Col D’Aubisque was truly awesome but there is no time to rest, this is a nasty, exacting test of mettle. This is the Col du Soulor, offering very little respite. Louis Meintjes continues to attempt to bridge the gap to the leading pack, but is getting no help from the riders around him. Bauke Mollema, the veteran, leads Ciccone over the top, lending vital help to his Trek-Segafredo teammate. And the descent can resume.
Ciccone takes the mountain points on Col d’Aubisque
66km to go: Louis Meintjes, who came second on Alpe D’Huez, chases the leading group led by Van Aert, as the climb twists itself round and round the hairpin bends, and slowly. Meintjes is about a minute behind, and on GC virtuel, he has ridden himself up to fourth. Long way to go yet today. Adam Yates, of Team Ineos, has been suffering today but the slow pace of the peloton has allowed him back on.
The group who will begin their descent together: Giulio Ciccone, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) Tiesj Benoot, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Bob Jungels (Ag2r-Citröen), Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Enric Mas, Carlos Verona, Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), Valentin Madouas, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM), Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-EasyPost).
Ciccone is unchallenged as he goes over the summit first, and is now within three points of Geschke, who is sweating blood back down the hill. Ciccone will fancy picking up some more on the next hill.
The other news is that the two motorbikes that caused the accident including Jack Bauer have both been kicked off Le Tour.
Updated at 14.48 BST
70km to go: Luis Leon Sanchez, a wily old fox, sets off from the front of the peloton, and eats the ground between him and Simon Geschke, who can’t stay with him and seems highly unlikely to be in polka tomorrow. A long long afternoon awaits, and there’s still around 5km of the Col d’Aubisque to go. The yellow jersey group is getting smaller, down to barer bones. Vingegaard is out of his saddle, no pressure as yet.
On this famous hill, from this article on the Basque Country.
Col d’Aubisque (1,700m) is next up, with pine and birch forests, hairpin bends and spectacular views. We stop to attempt to cycle the pass (I give up part way up!).
Nerves of steel are needed for the road cut into near-vertical cliffs around Col du Soulor (1,474m). It’s narrow, with a couple of tunnels, so you’ll need to drive it in the afternoon if your vehicle is over three tonnes (east to west in the morning). The scenery is sublime: the valley floor seems miles below – with nothing but a few concrete blocks between you – while impossible peaks loom above. This beautiful section of road is another favourite of diehard cyclists.
This climb has only ever been a summit finish three times, with the winners Bernard Labourdette in 1971, Stephen Roche in 1985 and Michael Rasmussen in 2007.
The latter was kicked out of the race while in yellow, only the second time that’s happened.
75km to go: Tom Pidcock, the hero of Alpe D’Huez, is up riding with Geschke, and has two teammates off him, only for Geschke to drop off the back. His polka dot jersey has been endangered by the Cofidis team’s failed efforts to get him up there, and his own lack of form. Giulio Ciccone, the Trek-Segafredo rider at the front, could close to within three points of Geschke if he takes the points at the top. All to play for. Jumbo-Visma have Tiesj Benoot up the front with Van Aert, to act as a launchpad if Vingegaard needs them later on. At the back of the field, Quick-Step are doing their best to save Fabio Jakobsen missing the time limit. He made it by just 15 seconds yesterday.
Updated at 14.27 BST
80km to go: The chase is on on that first big climb. Geschke gives chase as that 30-man group soon breaks up, 21 seconds behind, and back in the peloton, the only UAE rider sat with Pogacar is Brandon McNulty, who led his man right to the finish yesterday.
Van Aert wins the intermediate sprint!
84km to go: Some calm? Seems like it for now, with an intermediate sprint and climb soon to come and a sizeable group away in front, though the gap is only around 20 seconds.
The makeup, a movable feast was this: Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma), Dani Martinez and Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers), Stan Dewulf (Ag2R-Citroen), Marco Haller (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mattia Cattaneo (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Matteo Jorgensen (Movistar), Matej Mohoric 9(Bahrain Victorious), Alberto Dainese (Team DSM), Alexandr Ribsushenko (Astana-Qazaqstan), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), Amaury Capiot (Arkea-Samsic), Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal), Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels-KTM), Nils Politt and Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Florian Senechal (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Rigo Uran (EF), Matis Louvel (Arkea), Tony Gallopin (Trek-Segafredo), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies) and Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech)
Van Aert idles them home, nobody looking like they fancy challenging him. The green jersey is his, barring accident/Covid. The first climb approaches, and those 30 or so men will never be mentioned in the same breath again.
A crash at the back of the field!
95km to go: Van Aert joins up to make it a 30-man group up away at the front. A dog barks loudly as a bottle is lobbed. And at the back of the field, there’s a prang, A press motorbike took a tight street too keenly and Jack Bauer ended up going into the back of the UAE team car. That was ugly and Bauer was furious as he splatted off the back of that team car. Up ahead, Nils Eekhoff, the Team DSM rider, has a cut elbow. That was entirely the fault of the motorbike. Bauer takes some wipes to his elbow, it looks nasty.
Updated at 13.57 BST
100km to go: It remains eventful, and there’s another break formed, only for it to splinter. Luke Rowe and Danny Martinez of Team Ineos are involved. There are signals made to work harder from within the group. Simon Geschke hasn’t managed to bridge the gap, it seems, as the gap goes up to just over 20 seconds.
110km to go: Mikkel Berg, who rode a big ride for Pogacar, is sat off the back of the peloton and looks to be suffering for yesterday’s efforts. Simon Geschke, the leader of the mountains points, is chasing down the breakaway, in an attempt to close off any other contenders for the polka pots on the first climb, the Col d’Aubisque. Eventually, the chase closes down the break and the pack is soon enough back together. Van Aert resumes the role of stalking horse up at the front. The pace is high, no rest ahead of the humps to come. Though as soon he rests, other attempt to make their escape.
David Duffield’s already featured today in the preamble.
115km to go: That break is made up of as follows: Stan Dewulf (Ag2R-Citroen), Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM), Stefan Bisseger (EF Education-EasyPost), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal) and Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco). The gap is teetering around 30 seconds.
Updated at 13.13 BST
120km to go: Van Aert is back in the pack and it’s left to others to chase the break. Christophe Laporte is on the front, replicating the actions of Van Aert, his Jumbo teammate. Michael Matthews is in this leading quintet, with Aleksandr Anatolyevich Vlasov, in eighth on GC, trying to join up. Van Aert then leads an expeditionary force from the peloton in an attempt to get within the break.
130km to go: No energy being saved for the climbs ahead, as Nils Pollit and Dylan Teuns chased after Van Aert as he makes a descent down the first hill of the day, they have nine seconds to make up on him, the peloton around 20 seconds behind but then the gap begins to go down, as a UAE-led peloton zip after him. Vingegaard and Pogacar are almost joined at the hip in the depths of the peloton, both covered up ahead of the battle to come up the road. Pollit and Teuns are pulled back in. Even Van Aert is struggling to live with the pace, the gap dwindling to five seconds. Stan Dewulf of AG2R catches him and overtakes him. Could this be the formation of a breakaway group?
140km to go: A reminder of what the stage looks like. Lumpy, in short and up the front, Van Aert drops Powless and flies away from the field. The man is relentless.
And away we go!
The peloton flies along to Kilometre Zero and off goes Wout van Aert goes off up ahead, the race is on immediately. Looks like the Jumbo-Visma plan is for him to go up ahead, take the intermediate sprint and then work with Vingegaard later on in the stage. Nelson Powless, a regular in the breakaways, joins him up there. A powerful duo to pull away so early.
Updated at 12.44 BST
Two further Covid withdrawals here.
Chris Froome out of Le Tour with Covid
The four-time winner has tested positive, and will take no further part for the Israel–Premier Tech team, for whom he rode to third on Alpe D’Huez. Will we see him again on Le Tour? The plan is for him to go for the Vuelta next month.
More retro action from 2000, watch
and Marco Pantani do battle in a rather rainier Hautacam, including comms from Phil Liggett and the much missed Paul Sherwen.
All over for “G” in terms of winning a second Tour but a podium finish is still on, he was cracked yesterday by Pogacar’s UAE teammates.
Thomas said: “I didn’t really expect that, especially from Berg. He put in a hell of a shift for the rider he is. It’s cracking me actually, that he was hurting me so much on a climb. But fair play: they really took it on.”
Asked if Berg’s and particularly McNulty’s performance, which saw the American leading Pogacar into the final 200m, were what he had have expected, Thomas said: “Not at all, no. Fair play, both of them, and whatever they had for breakfast, because they were going.”
Tadej Pogacar’s teammate, Mikkel Berg, on the final chance to crack Vingegaard.
Everything is possible. Tadej, he had one bad day and lost the yellow jersey, so we need to put the pressure on and see if Jonas has a bad day. It’s one of the hardest stages in this year’s Tour. Tadej has good legs, we all feel confident and good that we can try to do something.
Updated at 12.13 BST
A third and final day in the Pyrenees, and a last chance for Tadej Pogacar to land a blow ahead of Saturday’s time trial. The stage win went his way on Wednesday but Jonas Vingegaard was not for the cracking as the two leaders made their way together to Peyragudes’ finish line.
A path well known but not necessarily well travelled on Le Tour, the Hautacam has serious history. The last winner on its peak was Vincenzo Nibali, who rode in the yellow jersey into Paris, while its most famous day was in 1996 when Miguel Indurain, the winner of five consecutive Tours, cracked as Bjarne Riis appeared to be riding a hematocrit-powered motorbike up ahead of Big Mig. And talking of suspicious wins, it was in 2000 that
cracked Jan Ullrich, taking four minutes from the big, friendly giant.
Only one Frenchman has won on Hautacam, in 1994 when Luc Leblanc, that year’s world road race champion, crested the summit with Indurain just rwo seconds back and Marco Pantani 18 seconds back, the rest of the field splintered into smithereens. It’s a place where the big boys come out to play.
Per William Fotheringham in our pre-race preview:
Another stage that is too short for a break to gain much time before the big names get moving. It’s a brutal course covering the legendary Col d’Aubisque and the unknown Col de Spandelles before the final haul to a bleak plateau. The winner will probably be in the top six overall, and he will be odds on to take the final victory. Think Pogacar, Roglic, Vingegaard or, from the left field, the Australian Ben O’Connor.
NB: Such is this Tour’s attrition that O’Connor and Roglic are long gone from the peloton. Instead, they will be aiming for this year’s Vuelta.