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Mass crash on Tour briefly halts Stage 14; Pogacar, Vingegaard escape unscathed

Romain Bardet Romain Bardet - The Canadian Press

MORZINE LES PORTES DU SOLEIL, France (AP) — Could the Tour de France be decided by time bonuses? Even on the toughest battleground, defending champion Jonas Vingegaard and two-time winner Tadej Pogacar could not separate themselves Saturday after a dramatic day in the Alps.

Again in a class of their own, Pogacar and Vingegaard finished second and third respectively at the ski station of Morzine after another fierce fight that concluded a day of attrition in the 14th stage.

The pair was well ahead of their struggling overall challengers at some point in the final ascent, the daunting Col de Joux Plane, but allowed stage winner Carlos Rodriguez to come back as the duo watched each other like track cyclists in a velodrome, waiting for an opening to get the biggest bonus at the top of the steep ascent. Vingegaard won this duel.

Rodriguez, a Tour debutant from Spain riding for Ineos-Grenadiers, then moved away from the pair in the downhill leading to Morzine.

Vingegaard kept the yellow jersey, increasing his overall lead by just one second to 10 seconds after Pogacar sprinted to secure second place in the stage. Rodriguez moved up to third place overall — 4 minutes, 43 seconds behind Vingegaard — after his first Tour stage win.

Rodriguez had trailed by more than one minute but made the most of the pair's duel to prevail.

“I didn’t think it was possible when I got dropped in the Joux Plane," he said. “I tried to climb at my own pace to later do the descent as fast as possible. I am a good descender, I wanted to take advantage. I was close to crashing a couple of times ... I took some risks.”

Rodriguez became the youngest Spanish stage winner in the race's history at 22 years, 5 months, 13 days.

Vingegaard amassed a total of 12 bonus seconds for first place at the top of the climb and his third-place finish. Pogacar had 11 — second at summit and second-place finish.

“It's going to be really tight,” Pogacar said after the 151.8-kilometer (94-mile) stage.

For Pogacar, the gloves were definitely off in the final ascent of the day. Literally. He got rid of them at the start of Joux Plane, the climax of a brutal trek in the Alps featuring no less than five ascents.

Well supported by their super-strong teammates, Pogacar and Vingegaard started to climb in the lead group after the last of the breakaway riders was caught 58 kilometers (36 miles) from the finish.

Pogacar was the first to attack in Joux Plane and opened a small gap, but Vingegaard paced himself and gradually returned to catch the Slovenian rider from the UAE Team Emirates 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) from the top.

Pogacar then tried another acceleration 500 meters from the summit but slowed down as the race motorbikes hampered his move and he had to cut his effort. His Danish rival from the Jumbo-Visma team then opened the sprint in the final bend before the top and got the eight-second time bonus, with Pogacar awarded five seconds.

The start of the stage was marred by a mass pileup soon after the peloton left the town of Annemasse.

Spanish rider Antonio Pedrero was evacuated by ambulance and Louis Meintjes, who was 13th overall, abandoned with a suspected broken collarbone. Esteban Chaves, from the EF Education Easypost team, also quit.

Dozens of racers crashed on a bend on a slippery road and many received treatment. An Intermarche-Circus-Wanty teammate of Meintjes, Adrien Petit, got back on his bike with his right leg bandaged.

Organizers decided to neutralize the stage for about 15 minutes, before local hope Romain Bardet and James Shaw joined the list of withdrawals further down the road after they crashed in a downhill. Bardet was diagnosed with a concussion, the Frenchman's team said.

The 179-kilometer (111-mile) 15th stage to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc on Sunday is another difficult trek with a mountaintop finish before Monday's second rest day.


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