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Defending champion Vingegaard expected to make move as high mountains loom

Jonas Vingegaard (centre) in action with riders during Stage 2
Jonas Vingegaard (centre) in action with riders during Stage 2Reuters
Tuesday's fourth stage of the Tour de France will sort the men from the boys as the race hits the high mountains, with Jonas Vingegaard (27) looking to make an early impact after a start that probably exceeded his own expectations.

The defending champion entered the event having not raced since he sustained broken ribs and a collapsed lung in April, and his rivals were hoping to put the hammer down early on to benefit from the Dane's lack of competitive riding.

Tadej Pogacar, who is bidding to achieve the first Giro d'Italia/Tour de France double since 1998, won the Tour in 2020 and 2021 but was humbled by Vingegaard in the last two editions.

The Slovenian has had a sterling season as he won six stages in his triumphant Giro ride, also claiming victory in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege Monument classic and the Tour of Catalunya.

In Sunday's second stage, the San Luca climb, a short and brutal effort (1.9km at 10.6%), was the perfect terrain to put the pressure on Vingegaard and his other main rivals.

Vingegaard, however, responded with awe-inspiring ease. He was the only rider to follow Pogacar's attack, likely instilling doubt into the world number one's mind as confidence possibly switched sides.

Jonas Vingegaard in action during Stage 2
Jonas Vingegaard in action during Stage 2Reuters

Tuesday's ride is a 139.6km effort between Pinerolo and Valloire featuring three categorised climbs, notably the lung-busting ascent to the Col du Galibier peaking at 2,642 metres.

"I think this went way better than I ever expected, so I'm really satisfied," said Vingegaard.

"I think this is probably one of the stages we feared the most, or we actually expected me to lose time. Honestly speaking I didn't have a good preparation for this race.

"I only had one and a half months to prepare, probably, so I think I can be super happy with how everything is going so far.

"I knew already before my crash that the stage today maybe suited him better than it suited me, and especially after my crash, I was even more behind. At least I can say now that if I'm not back at least I'm super, super close."

Pogacar took the overall leader's yellow jersey but only on added places with no time difference, with Belgian prodigy Remco Evenepoel and Vingegaard in second and third.

"It was a good stage. I did a good effort, and it feels good to be in yellow again," said Pogacar, who had not worn the coveted jersey since 2022.

"Last year I was so close and then I cracked. It's good to be in yellow even if it's without any margin. It's confirmation that I'm strong."

The only concern for Pogacar is that Vingegaard might already be stronger.

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