Tour de France contenders will battle it out in the Pyrenees on Saturday and Sunday, but Friday’s seventh stage produced a surprise shakeup of its own.
Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, third place in the overall standings going into the day, lost 81 seconds to the other favorites to make the podium in Paris in two weeks. Another contender, Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz, lost the same amount of time.
Pogacar and Carapaz were the biggest names who didn’t make the front of a split late in the flat, 104-mile stage.
Belgian Wout van Aert led the final sprint for his second win in the last three stages, after most of the sprinters were dropped earlier in the day. The first finishing group also included overall leader Adam Yates, who keeps the yellow jersey for a third straight day.
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But Yates is not expected to keep the lead into the final week. Pre-race favorites Primoz Roglic of Slovenia (van Aert’s Jumbo-Visma teammate) and Egan Bernal of Colombia finished in the same time as Yates, consolidating their podium ambitions.
Roglic trails Yates by three seconds. Bernal is 13 seconds behind, along with contenders Nairo Quintana, Tom Dumoulin and Thibaut Pinot.
“Today we gained time,” Bernal said, “but we have to stay focused because there is a long way to Paris.”
Pogacar, arguably the No. 3 overall pre-race favorite, went from seven seconds back to 1:28. Carapaz, the 2019 Giro d’Italia champion, is now 2:02 behind.
“We knew in the final section that it would be hard so we were trying to move to the front, but someone crashed in front of us, and I ended up behind the group when it split,” Pogacar said, according to Cyclingnews.com. “It’s just a minute or so, It’s not ideal, but I’m not worried. We will try another day.”
The Tour heads to the Pyrenees for the first of back-to-back mountain stages on Saturday. NBC Sports Gold streaming begins at 7:20 a.m. ET. Broadcast coverage on NBC starts at 8.
Yates, fourth in the 2016 Tour, has said his goal for this Tour is stage wins. If Yates makes it through the Pyrenees with his lead, he could hold it until the next summit finish in stage 13 next Friday.
If he does that, Yates will have worn the maillot jaune longer than any other British rider who hasn’t won a Tour.
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