Tour de France 2023: Yates and Pogacar eye Vingegaard’s crown
Intrigue was added just three days before the start of the Tour de France 2023 as Adam Yates’ status provided a potential plot twist.
For the last 12 months this Tour has been billed as a rematch between Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar – who between them have been both winner and runner-up in each of the last two editions.
The pair tower above any other contender – their pedigree and form pointing to a two-horse race from the moment last year’s Tour was packing up in Paris – with Vingegaard the 11/10 favourite in the Tour de France 2023 outright betting just ahead of Pogacar at 5/4.
Jumbo-Visma’s Vingegaard has won three stage races this season – including pre-Tour tune-up the Criterium du Dauphine in June – while barely seeming to get out of second gear.
Meanwhile, UAE Team Emirates’ Pogacar piled up 12 victories in 19 days of racing before crashing out of Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April with a broken wrist.
The 24-year-old almost immediately resumed training on a turbo trainer at home, then posted pictures on social media as he got back out on the road sooner than predicted.
All the signs suggested Pogacar was fit, fresh and ready to go in his bid to win a third Tour de France, and nobody would have been dissuaded from that view with the way he cruised to the Slovenian national title on his return to racing last weekend.
But as Tour de France 2023 teams and riders began to descend on Bilbao this week, Pogacar’s team boss Mauro Gianetti offered up some counter-intelligence.
“Adam (Yates) will not just be there to support Tadej, he will be our co-leader this summer,” Gianetti told L’Equipe.
“We really don’t have a choice. Tadej spent five weeks without being able to train on the road. There are no miracles in cycling. You have to get the miles in. He has worked hard, we have a lot of faith in him, but we’re not certain of anything.”
Yates in fine form
Yates, 30, is a superb man to be able to turn to in such a crisis. The Lancastrian has been flying himself in recent weeks, winning the Tour de Romandie before coming in second behind Vingegaard at the Dauphine. As a young rider he took fourth place overall and the white jersey at the Tour back in 2016.
Yates is a dark horse at 50/1 in the Tour de France 2023 winner odds but is he really now a co-leader on the team, or is Gianetti trying to throw rivals off the scent?
For his part, Pogacar has declared himself ready to race, even claiming some benefits from the spell on the sidelines.
Speaking to the National newspaper in the UAE last week, he said: “I’ve already been back on the road for a few weeks now.
“Actually you could say it happened at a perfect time. Naturally I didn’t want it to happen like that, but I was due a long break and I guess the injury forced me to rest a bit more.”
Vingegaard is unlikely to waste too much time trying to guess about Pogacar’s form, his focus purely on building on what he has already done this season.
“I think winning the Tour gives me a lot of confidence and I believe I can do it again,” he said earlier this month. “A lot of things can happen, and I’ll have to be at my best level, but I think I can do it.
“The feeling I have now is one of less pressure, now (that) I’ve won it once. Even if I never win it again and I retire in 10 years, I can still say I’ve won it and be proud of my career.”
This year it will take the Tour only five days to reach the Pyrenees and the first mountain tests. Whatever the truth about Pogacar’s form, the road will reveal the answers.