SAINT-GAUDENS, France — Austrian rider Patrick Konrad won the Tour de France’s hilly 16th stage on an otherwise uneventful day Tuesday as race leader Tadej Pogacar remained on course for his second overall victory.
Konrad made his decisive break with just over 22.5 miles to go, 2.5 miles before the summit of Col de Portet-d’Aspet, and he maintained the lead for his first Tour stage win.
The 29-year-old Konrad finished 42 seconds ahead of a group of five chasers — Sonny Colbrelli, Michael Matthews, Pierre Luc Perichon, Franck Bonnamour and Alex Aranburu Deba — on the second day of racing in the Pyrenees.
Konrad is only the third Austrian to win a stage at cycling’s biggest race after Max Bulla, who won three in 1931, and Georg Totschnig in 2005.
“I’m speechless. This one is for my family, for my friends, for all my believers,” Konrad said. “I’m happy I had the legs to make it to the finish. The last kilometer was uphill and it was painful again but I had some time to celebrate.”
Pogacar, the defending champion, finished 13 minutes, 49 seconds after Konrad and maintained his general classification lead of more than five minutes over Rigoberto Uran and Jonas Vingegaard.
Pogacar remained in the peloton with his GC rivals as his UAE Team Emirates team enjoyed a comfortable ride in the 105-mile trek from the tiny mountain-locked nation of Andorra.
“The first two hours we were just flying, and then it settled down, but then fireworks again so it was quite technical, quite hard,” Pogacar said.
The Slovenian only had to deal with rivals’ attacks in the final kilometers, but he had little trouble dealing with Guillaume Martin and Wout van Aert’s late actions.
“I just follow the wheels. I don’t know. I had no idea what we were doing. But yeah, it was good to open the legs,” said Pogacar, who just needs to avoid any mishaps in the remaining five stages.
Wednesday will be a day of Pyrenees punishment with an unforgiving 111-mile route that ends with three major obstacles in a row. The 17th stage ends with the hardest, a steep 16-kilometer climb to the 2,215-meter altitude finish atop Col du Portet.
“The hardest day in the Tour,” Pogacar said.
“I did the recon for tomorrow and the day after so I know the climbs. It would be better if I didn’t see them,” the 22-year-old joked. “I’m not worried, but it’s going to be really hard I think.”
Amund Groendahl Jansen, who had been struggling since the opening stage crash, dropped out Tuesday morning, while Vincenzo Nibali also didn’t start. The Italian had already said he would pull out after stage 15 to focus on the Olympics.
It meant more than 20% of the Grand Départ starters were no longer competing. The 145-rider peloton had not been reduced so much before the second rest day since 2012.
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