O'Connor sneaks into the untouchable Pogacar party

The Australian wins the second stage of the Alps, hardened by the freezing rain, and places second. The leader opens more gap. Enric Mas is sixth, at 5:47.


Wout van Aert looked at the television camera, splattered by permanent rain, and waved goodbye. The UAE Team had tightened the pace on the ramps of Col du Pré, the third of the five passes on the second day of the Alps, also the hardest of the route, to eliminate the rival that Tadej Pogacar had closest in time just in time ... The Belgian, who had left Cluses at 1:48 with the yellow jersey, arrived on the bus, more than half an hour later, and said goodbye to the general. With the form of last year he could have lengthened the pulse, but this Van Aert is another. The second classified is now the Australian Ben O'Connor, the impressive winner of the Dantesque Tignes stage. Pogacar, meanwhile, is still in another league.

Two close associates of Van Aert had left earlier, bypassing the exit. On the one hand, their leader in the Jumbo, Primoz Roglic, who prefers to heal wounds at home and prepare other objectives. The assault on his third Tour of Spain? On the other, his dear enemy Mathieu Van der Poel, who, after six days in yellow and honoring the memory of his grandfather Poulidor, has changed the track to the Tokyo Olympics, where he will compete in the specialty of mountain biking. Van der Poel and Van Aert, with a touch of Julian Alaphilippe, have given a show in the first week of the Tour, as they have done in the rest of the season, but Pogacar took the helm on Saturday with a feat of time and now it is the undisputed pattern. In Tignes he demonstrated it again.

Ahead of the roosters, the stage victory was resolved, which for many kilometers pointed to a Colombian duel between Nairo Quintana and Sergio Higuita, the teacher and the apprentice. Nairo had already said before starting the Tour that this year he was not going to fight the general classification, but he is excited about the Mountain, with that polka dot jersey that he already wears when leaving the Alps. Only a 25-year-old Australian, Ben O'Connor, first resisted the South American eagles, although he suffered greatly on the descents, especially from the cold and the loss of feeling in his hands. The cyclists suffered torture in the freezing rain.

O'Connor started the last climb with Quintana and Higuita, who unexpectedly got off the hook. First it was Nairo, who paid for the harshness of the route, the weather, his struggle to score on the peaks ... Then, Higuita, who felt the blow with greater rigor. The Australian, alone, launched himself for victory, the second in a big one after his triumph in Madonna di Campiglio in the Giro d'Italia last year. The Alps are good for him. The Aussie also became the leader, virtually wearing a yellow jersey that was 8:13 minutes into the Cluses start. He did not succeed, but he has placed second in the classification, at 2:01. Just the gap left by Van Aert.

Ben O'Connor occupies the pole among the candidates for the drawer of Paris, right now the only enigma that the general offers. Richard Carapaz started again for the third consecutive day, with the same sterile result as in the previous two. We have to be grateful, although the only thing he managed was to provoke Pogacar, who riveted all the bosses and hit another bite at the Tour. With the Slovenian installed in another dimension, there is a group of six other closely matched pursuers, O'Connor on the sidelines, six cyclists in one minute. Rigoberto Urán tops the list: third at 5:18. And among them continues Enric Mas, sixth at 5:47, who, despite suffering a hard fall, was encouraged to attack in the final stretch of the ascent. With two weeks to go, the podium looms on the horizon like a great victory. The honor of accompanying the untouchable Pogacar in the photo.

A 35:49 minutes of the day's hero came another hero, in a different fight. Almost all cyclists are on days like this. Mark Cavendish, escorted by his teammates Tim Declerq and Michael Morkov, crossed the finish line excited. The three celebrated as a victory having been able to save the out of control. This is cycling too.

Photos from as.com
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