Time for Pogacar's team to step up as punishing Puy de Dome looms at Tour de France

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Time for Pogacar's team to step up as punishing Puy de Dome looms at Tour de France
Pogacar celebrates on the podium wearing the white jersey after stage 8.
Pogacar celebrates on the podium wearing the white jersey after stage 8.
Reuters
Tadej Pogacar (24) single-handedly held off a full-scale offensive by Jonas Vingegaard's (26) Jumbo-Visma team in the Pyrenees, but with many more mountain stages looming in the Tour de France, his UAE Emirates team might need to step it up if the Slovenian is to conquer a third title.

Pogacar, the 2020 and 2021 Tour champion, lost ground to defending champion Vingegaard in the Col de Marie Blanque on Wednesday, but he bounced back in style the day after on the ascent to Cauterets-Cambasque, dropping the Danish rider after coming under the Jumbo Visma team's fire in the Col du Tourmalet.

Pogacar, however, could not count on his teammates even though the outfit recruited several top riders in the close season to narrow the gap with their Dutch rivals.

UAE Emirates controlled the race in the opening stages after Adam Yates snatched the yellow jersey on the first day, but paid for their efforts in the mountains.

"At the start of the Tour, his team was stronger on paper, but then you have to manage them on a daily basis. Can you afford wasting energy every day or do you spare the guys a little bit?" Groupama-FDJ sports director Philippe Mauduit told Reuters.

"This Tour is one of the hardest in the last 20 years so you need to be humble -- which some teams with huge means do not always do."

Briton Adam Yates, who would target a podium finish in Paris if he was leading another team, has yet to give everything to help Pogacar and, having spared himself when he could have sacrificed his chances for the Slovenian, lies sixth overall.

"He is a team mate de luxe. As long as they can keep him in the game in the general classification, he can be a danger (for the other teams)," said Mauduit, who guided Alberto Contador to two Vuelta titles and now manages Thibaut Pinot and podium contender David Gaudu.

BRUTAL CLIMB

His counterpart at Jumbo Visma, Sepp Kuss, has been key to Vingegaard's success last year as well as in Primoz Roglic's victories with the Dutch team.

"He is, by a mile, the best team mate in the mountains in the last five, six years," said former French rider Pierre Rolland, a Tour stage winner at L'Alpe d'Huez.

"That's the career he chose, he is blossoming in this role. Vingegaard and Roglic owe him a lot of their wins."

Sunday's ninth stage ends with a brutal, iconic climb up to the Puy de Dome, a 13.3-km stretch at 7.7% with the last four kilometres at an average gradient of more than 11.5%.

"We have to make a plan but it's not only up to us," said Vingegaard, who leads the general classification with an advantage of 25 seconds over Pogacar.

The plan might not come from UAE Emirates.

"You get the impression that they're not very well organised. They don't have a road captain or instructions on the radio," said Rolland.

"It's like they're always improvising a bit. I don't think Pogacar has a problem with that, though."

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