HAUTACAM, FRANCE (AFP) – Jonas Vingegaard showed class when he waited for defending champion Tadej Pogacar after a fall, before going on to beat his Slovenian rival by over a minute on the Hautacam mountain on stage 18 of the Tour de France on Thursday (July 21).

The stage win leaves Denmark’s Vingegaard with an advantage that, barring disaster or a bad fall, should see him ride up the Champs Elysees to win the 2022 title on Sunday.

“I don’t want to talk about winning the Tour yet, let’s talk about it in Paris, there are three days to go,” Vingegaard said at the line.

The pair have been shadowing each other the entire race, with Pogacar winning three stages and taking the overall leader’s yellow jersey by stage seven, before Vingegaard took it off him in the baking heatwave in the Alps.

Since then Pogacar has relentlessly attacked the Dane in a stubborn effort to close the gap.

The loss of four of his UAE teammates to positive Covid tests and falls however hurt those chances.

On Thursday, Vingegaard’s Jumbo teammate Wout van Aert acted as a sherpa for his team leader on the final climb, and it was at that moment that Pogacar finally cracked.

Earlier and likely equally as damaging, some 28km from home, Pogacar misjudged a corner and Vingegaard cut inside him, spooking the Slovenian who then wobbled and slipped off into a gutter.

The champion swiftly picked himself up, ignoring the gash on his left hand as he hammered the pedal down in pursuit.

Vingegaard, after at first attacking the opportunity, had a change of heart, waiting for his rival, before the two grasped each other’s hand as Pogacar drew up alongside.

“We like each other, we get on and we respect each other,” said the Dane.

The gesture will likely serve Vingegaard’s reputation well, within the cycling code of honour, and with the wider public.

Last modified: July 22, 2022