Jonas Vingegaard of Team Jumbo-Visma continued to defend his leading position in the general classification of the Tour de France, despite losing two teammates to crashes.
In the 16th stage of the Tour on Tuesday, Vingegaard countered several attacks from Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates to maintain a 2-minute, 22-second advantage.
A group of 29 riders, including Wout van Aert and Nathan Van Hooydonck, broke away from the peloton early in the race. Van Aert picked up 17 points for the green jersey at the intermediate sprint and extended his lead in the points classification.
In the peloton, Pogacar attempted several times to break Vingegaard. On the Port de Lers, Pogacar tried to surprise his rival three times, but the GC leader did not budge. On the day’s final climb, Durangoan Sepp Kuss rode strong to ensure Pogacar had no chance to attack, especially as Van Aert and Van Hooydonck had joined the duo of Vingegaard and Pogacar.
“I felt excellent today,” Vingegaard said. “Tadej tried several times on the penultimate climb, but luckily I was able to follow him. Our plan was to have someone in the breakaway, so I would have an extra helper on the final descent. With Wout dropping back, we hoped Tadej would think there was no point in attacking. The plan worked out perfectly.”
Vingegaard ended up finishing 15th, and Pogacar crossed 16th, both 5:54 behind the stage winner, Hugo Houle of Isreal Premier Tech (4:23:47).
Kuss finished 21st in the stage, 5:57 back.
Fellow Durangoan Quinn Simmons finished 84th on Stage 16, 24:59 back.
On Sunday during Stage 15, Vingegaard was one of several Jumbo-Visma riders who crashed, but he recovered to hold on to his GC lead.
Primoz Roglic, who was the team’s second leader heading into the Tour, pulled out of the competition because of injuries he sustained earlier in the Tour.
“To let my injuries heal, we decided I will not start today,” Roglic said before Stage 15. “I’m proud of my contribution to the current standings, and I’m confident that the team will achieve its yellow and green ambitions. I want to thank everyone for their support.”
In the sweltering heat, Steven Kruijswijk was first involved in a crash and did not finish.
A few kilometers later, Vingegaard and Tiesj Benoot also crashed, but were able to continue. “It was a bad day for us,” Vingegaard said. “I’m OK. Tiesj fell in front of me, and I couldn’t avoid him. This kind of incident is part of cycling, unfortunately. It’s really unfortunate Steven and Primoz crashed. They are essential teammates.”
After Kruijswijk’s crash, Van Aert returned to the peloton and kept Vingegaard at the front.
Van Aert eventually sprinted to second place, just behind Jasper Philipsen of Alpecin-Deceuninck (4:27:27) while Mads Pedersen of Trek Segafredo finished third.
Pogacar finished 12th and Vingegaard crossed 23rd in the same time.
Simmons finished 71st in the stage, just 36 seconds back.
Kuss placed 117th, 17:16 back.
The beginning and the end of the 14th stage were tricky on Saturday. Immediately after the start, the pace was high. Pogacar tried to take advantage of the chaotic situation and attacked on the day’s first climb, but Vingegaard and Van Aert reacted well. “There were many attacks, also from riders who are still among the first the general classification,” Van Aert said. “They tried to sneak into the leading group. That made it hard to keep control, and I thought it was better to be there. Pogacar was immediately in my wheel, so I changed position and waited for my teammates to return. Eventually, a big break emerged, and we had to work hard to defend the yellow jersey.”
Leading up to the steep Cote de la Croix Neuve Montee Jalabert, Van Aert and Kuss stepped up the pace before Pogacar attacked again. Vingegaard immediately countered and stayed in his wheel until the finish.
“It was a very tough stage,” said Jumbo-Visma sports director Frans Maassen. “We knew we had to work hard, but we didn’t expect Pogacar to jump at the beginning. We had five riders in the group and took control. Ultimately, we needed to fight at the front and the back. I think Jonas and Pogacar were at their limit on the last climb. They appear to be evenly matched, but Jonas looked strong. It was a good day for us.”
Michael Matthews of Team BikeExchange-Jayco won the stage in 4:30:53. Simmons finished 6:22 later in 20th place.
Pogacar and Vingegaard, meanwhile, finished together in 23rd and 24th place, respectively, 12:34 back.
Kuss finished 40th on the stage, 15:12 back.
With five stages to go, Vingegaard leads Pogacar by 2:22 in the GC with a total time so far of 55:31:01. Thomas Geraint of INEOS Grenadiers (+2:43) is also still fighting for the GC.
Kuss is 21st in the GC (+44:52). Simmons moved up seven places on Tuesday to 67th (+2:20:10).