Pidcock triumphs at Alpe d’Huez and Vingaard resists Pogacar’s attacks in the Tour de France | Sports

Pogacar is alive. He extracts from his muscles the watts he always takes, his legs seem fresh, his pedaling light, his smile, always. And he attacks, he attacks twice, while there are less than five kilometers left in Alpe d’Huez, in the steepest straight line, at 11.5%, while already in front he is preparing to lift arms, winner, Tom Pidcock, the Ineos monster, world cyclo-cross champion, Olympic mountain bike champion. And a curve in what he calls, like all the inventors of his new meaning, the most “iconic” rise in cycling.

He is 22 years old and will have a curve, the 12, shared with a former winner, the most beautiful of climbers, with the Colombian Lucho Herrera, the essence of climbers, god. Which maybe, if he wasn’t in yellow about to win the whole Tour, he would want to be Vingaard, a Danish gardener, a beetle who didn’t bow his head to the wind, nor to the mountains , that he defies, in those he endures without hesitation, the only one who does, the wheel of Pogacar, which before seeking the misery of the rival seeks to reconnect with his being as quickly as possible. He attacks Pogacar twice, once between the fifth and fourth corners, another already in the final stretch, and once he has launched his sprint, checked its effects on his body, and the damage he guesses in the others, he raises his foot. Then he checks that Vingeard is at his side. He looks at him, smiles at the Dane, who smiles back. He quotes it for the Pyrenees, perhaps. “I’m coming back to myself,” he says. “The important thing is that I already know what happened to me at the Granon. It doesn’t say what it is, but just as Mas’ flatulence destroyed him, Pogacar’s food oblivion sank him.

The elders weren’t smiling. They spat if they could. They insulted each other. Ocaña put on his dog Merckx, to give him orders and delude himself into thinking that the cannibal was obeying him, and not the dog. Merckx is Pogacar today, two Tours won, untouchable, the promise of fate that he would be the greatest. The Slovenian is not the Merckx of the time. The fire that leads to excess does not burn in him. Jonas Vingaard either, his liquid eyes, his skin so white, he is Ocaña, the stubbornness, the determination, the need to be able one day with the Belgian. “Smiles are a sign of respect,” says the Dane. “I respect Tadej a lot, he is perhaps the best runner in the world. That’s it”. And the Slovenian, who smiles at all who pass, ratifies it. “It will be very difficult to beat a climber like him.”

The Tour will be him against the Dane. Not only. Him, against a team that has a plan every day, that does not seek as long as its leaders, King Vingaard, Queen Van Aert, Bishop Roglic, and the rooks and knights, and not the pawns, become heroes individual, but rather create, as in revolutions, and the Jumbo executes it, a single collective hero, who would be them, and could be the whole platoon. Also those who try to hold their wheels, Geraint Thomas, Enric Mas succeed. Bardet, Gaudu, Nairo, Yates are starting to fail.

Pidcock, a talent that cannot be bribed, a free man, is the 31st winner in the port of the Dutch. There are no bends for everyone on the Alpe, a fold bigger than the mountain that welcomes it, a recently worn towel thrown in a corner, where it remains crumpled, there are 21 tight bends like hairpins, empty amphitheaters from where life, from where cyclists arrive to the astonishment of spectators drunk, ecstatic, frightened by the heat, by the sun which at these heights, at more than 1,500 meters, without a cloud that shades him, does not burn, but itches, as if each face gave him the twinge of a nun, pricked him with a pin. From the void, among the jubilant supporters, the Jumbo rises in a collective demonstration, endless relays, sprinters setting the pace on the Iron Cross, a port torture, to the psalmodic rhythm, the sleeping tran tran, by Laporte. How far from the Galibier rap of the day before, which only a few crazy Van Aert relays seem to revive. “Our plan is to make the race very hard so that everyone arrives tired at the last port,” says Vingaard. “It’s the best thing for me, that I’m not explosive. That way we avoid attacks that break me.” They climbed Alpe d’Huez at a steady pace, only interrupted by volleys of Pogacar, in 39m 6s, or 2m 40s less than Pidcock. The time we expected, his usual watts, 6.3 per kilo. They are both in their moment.

The Englishman has been on the run from the start, on the Lautaret leaving Briançon, on the Galibier to which he always returns, climbing from the other side, the Iron Cross. Descents of vertigo, of a dilettante who finds pleasure in the line, and in the memory of when I was a child, not so long ago, and I went to school by bicycle at five o’clock in the morning, and I learned to handle it in extreme situations, in the wastelands of Leeds, on dangerous roads. He shares a break with Froome, four Tours and no curves in the Alpe. The research. He can’t with the Pidcock who was 13 and saw him win his first Tour on TV. Now he looks like his grandfather. Braking on descents. Move your head. But with the humility necessary to be able to start again. Broken and disjointed at 37. And a life after him.

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