Jonas VingegaardAs if bored, he gets up from the saddle and stretches his body. Pogacar look straight ahead. The road is vertical. McNulty pedals. the wrecker in action from the middle of the climb to Val Louron, 20 kilometers, already, the American friend of Pogacar has turned the peloton into rubble, tough cyclists, the best in the world, big names who die begging for mercy, Geraint Thomas, Nairo Quintana, Enric More… At his wheel, the one in white, the one in yellow.
Dueling is a game of pride.
A used, old bike. Peyragudes, half of the old Peyresourde, the first Pyrenean pass the Tour climbed, 112 years ago, and the peloton left Bagnères de Luchon at midnight, half the climb to a mountain airstrip , 1,580 meters high, and a wall that was added 10 years ago and inaugurated by Valverde. Vingeard, the one in yellow, and getting closer to Paris, plays the game of confusion. He slips between Pogacar, the one in white, still so young, 23 years old, and the wheel that hypnotizes him. The Slovenian does not flinch. Speak into the earpiece. 500 meters on the left. Wait for your moment. The wall, the wall. El Koppenberg de Flandes, pero de asphalt smooth y sol, en julio, no en abril, y en los Pirineos, donde él le quiere demostrar al danés que llega quién es el mejor como en Flandes lo hizo con Van der Poel, el rey de places. McNulty is consumed by accelerating even more. 16% slope. 300 meters. Pride launches Pogacar. A dock. Vingeard sticks, adheres, its wheel is a magnet. Wait for your moment. Duel is a waiting game. There are 175 meters to go when Vingaard replies. The signal that Pogacar was waiting for, rewarded, a dynamite that goes back 100. He wins the stage as he won it, the same on the Planche des Belles Filles, so long ago that it seems to have happened on a another tower. The dual.
At the finish line, they shake hands. Beautiful boys. healthy young people. Athletes. Pogacar stretches how long he is on the asphalt, showers on the hull, his protruding locks, the fins of the shark that sits, with San Pellegrino, sparkling water, served by Joseba, her masseur. Vingeard pedals on the roller, degreases. He talks on the phone with Trine, his girlfriend, who reminds him of what she reminds him of every day, above all, don’t read the newspapers, huh?, and he answers laconically, without showing any emotion. The Tour is a mental game
“Pride? My pride? No, no, not mine, that of the team,” says the Slovenian, who prefers to seek emotion, the strength that mobilizes everyone. “I won for them. And tomorrow, the big day, we will leave more motivated than ever”. Hope. Hautacam. Vingeard, at 2 min 18 s, four seconds closer, the bonus.
On the catwalk, when dressed in yellow, over the covid mask, the Dane’s little blue eyes shine happier than any day. “I didn’t win the stage, I was isolated, alone, without a team, but I was able to follow him,” he says. “So yes, it was a difficult day, but perfect for me.”
Pogacar’s team, the United Arab Emirates, is made up of four people, and one of them, Hirschi, is lame. In the morning, at Saint Gaudens, they are sunk. Two left due to covid; Marc Soler, also ill, arrived the day before out of control, a voluntary ordeal, a penance for not having resisted, and at the Mur Péguère, his fetish, Majka, the Polish woman who encourages and amuses him the most, hurts himself because he pedals so hard that he breaks his bicycle chain on the highest slope. There are four left and they respond by being a better team than ever, taking over the stage, turning it into an ordeal for those who await mercy. The Danish time trial Mikkel Bjerg, a heavy rider, accelerates on the Hourquette d’Ancizan, the second climb of the day, and the peloton, so loaded until then, drops to 20 shortly after. 50 kilometers on the left. A descent, and Val Louron, where McNulty, a climber from Phoenix, Arizona, enters, where the trip to Psychosis and her Janet Leigh motel, which does the rest. One by one, they all hang up. three to the left.
In cloudy, cool Aspin for a horror summer day, where climbers’ paradise begins, the Tour is a game of champions from before, a shadow of what they were. From Froome, who is trying to escape, from Pinot, from Bardet, from whom they will never be again but who refuse to accept it. They’re looking for tears like chickpeas on fans’ faces. Emotion. Nairo is also of his generation, but he looks younger than a year ago, than three years ago. With more vitality. Fighting for a place on the podium, which this year, when he is already 32, would be a victory, he would not have the bitter taste of the podiums he obtained during his yellow dream. July 20. Colombian day. More motivated than ever, the lion Tunja also gives in, one of those who make up the peloton of those who make the Tour a game of resistance. And in front, the soul of a time trial who calculates his heart rate to never overdo it and dry up, Geraint Thomas, another who has already won the Tour, parades alone.
All find applause and oblivion. The Tour, the best Tour for many years, is the duel.
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