Evenepoel survives fright to win time trial as Pogacar holds lead

GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN: Remco Evenepoel recovered from a scare to win the thrilling 25.3km seventh stage of the Tour de France on Friday as Tadej Pogacar dug deep to retain the overall leader’s yellow jersey.

It was the first Tour de France stage win for the 24-year-old Belgian world time trial champion, who finished 12 seconds ahead of Pogacar, who was second that day in the Burgundy vineyard.

Evenepoel took a bigger victory but lost seconds after he was startled by a sudden noise with three kilometers to go.

At first, the Belgian thought he had a mechanical problem and took a big jump to test his bike and make sure he could continue.

“I thought I had a problem, but it was actually crowd noise,” said Evenepoel, a member of the Quick Step team.

“It was nothing really, but I lost four or five seconds.”

“The fans were great and it was amazing to hear them banging like that, it was crazy, a dream come true.”

Veteran Primoz Roglic was third with 34 seconds, and double champion Jonas Vingegaard was fourth with 37 seconds.

The result after seven stages of the 21-day race, which ends in Nice, saw the ‘Fab Four’ of favorites remain in the top four.

Pogacar is 33 seconds ahead of Evenepoel in the overall standings, with Vingegaard third by 1 minute 15 seconds.

“I knew I was having a good time. My sports director was very positive on the microphone,” said Pogacar, who nevertheless looked gloomy at the finish line.

Pogacar, 25, who won the 2020 and 2021 Tours, is targeting Marco Pantani’s first Giro d’Italia-Tour double since 1998.

“It’s a long way to Nice, but if everything goes well I’ll be fine for the last day,” he said.

“You don’t have to wait long: for stressful days.

“I can’t wait to get up into the mountains.”

The four favorites raced down the starting ramp in Nuits-Saint-Georges within ten minutes of each other, so the finale became the square edge of the session’s case.

In the noisy finish line, the fans crashed into the barriers and cheered a see-saw battle, which all four contenders did well.

Evenepoel has now beaten Pogacar in all six time trials in which they went head-to-head.

Denmark’s Vingegaard beat Pogacar in the last two qualifying sessions, but fell to the Slovenian on Friday.

As his reputation grows day by day in this Tour, Evenepoel has his sights set on Sunday’s stage, a 199km tour of the Champagne region that includes 35km.

“I went through it twice. It will be stressful, long, nervous, you can’t quite win the Tour there, but you can lose it there because of a bit of bad luck,” he said.

Before that, Saturday’s 183km stage runs through several wine regions, where attacks from the lower ranks shake things up.

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