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Pogacar closes on Tour lead after gruelling stage

UAE Team Emirates' Slovenian rider Tadej Pogacar wearing the best young rider's white jersey (R) cycles ahead of Jumbo-Visma's Danish rider Jonas Vingegaard wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey (C) in the final ascent of Col du Grand Combier in the final kilometeres of the 13th stage of the 110th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, 138 km between Chatillon-sur-Chalaronne in central-eastern France and Grand Colombier, in the Jura mountains in Eastern France, on July 14, 2023. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

Tadej Pogacar continued to claw back time on overall leader Jonas Vingegaard with a late, brutal uphill sprint to drop the defending champion in the finale of Saturday's 13th stage of the Tour de France at the top of the Col du Grand Colombier.

The Slovenian, Tour winner in 2020 and 2021, stood on the pedals inside the last kilometre and launched a furious sprint with Denmark's Vingegaard holding his wheel before losing the slipstream and four seconds on the line.

Pogacar, who has now beaten Vingegaard in the last three mountain stages, took third place on the day, 50 seconds behind Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski, the best of the breakaway riders.

Pogacar, who picked up four bonus seconds, trails Vingegaard by nine seconds in the general classification.

The 24-year-old stayed quiet in the main bunch all day and for most of the 17.4km ascent at 7.1% before attacking, once again showing his capacity to produce a massive, short effort on a steep finish.

His UAE Emirates team mates set the pace at the bottom of the climb, chasing the breakaway riders, but Kwiatkowski perfectly managed his stamina to give Ineos-Grenadiers their first win in this year's Tour, a year to the day after Tom Pidcock on L'Alpe d'Huez.

Belgian Maxim Van Gils was the only other breakaway rider to hold off Pogacar as he zig-zagged over the line for second, his face a pale mask of pain.

In a carbon copy of last Sunday's finale to the Puy de Dome, Vingegaard limited the damage to take fourth place with Britain's Pidcock fifth, 1:03 off the pace.

Australian Jai Hindley cemented his third place in the overall standings by taking sixth place, a further two seconds behind.

He now trails Vingegaard by 2:51 but leads Spain's Carlos Rodriguez by 1:57.

Saturday's 14th stage is a gruelling Alpine effort over 152 kilometres ending in Morzine after a tricky descent from the punishing Col de Joux Plane, a 11.6km ascent at 8.1%.

- Reuters