LE GRAND-BORNAND, France — Tadej Pogacar dealt a demoralizing blow to his remaining Tour de France rivals on the first day in the Alps, where the defending champion claimed the yellow jersey in Saturday’s grueling eighth stage.
Pogacar strengthened his bid to retain his Tour title after proving once again to be a step above the rest on the most-demanding ascents. The 22-year-old Slovenian set off on his own on the fourth of five categorized climbs, shedding Richard Carapaz, the last man — and possible contender — to have kept on his wheel.
Pogacar finished the 150.8-kilometer (93.7-mile) trek over five mountain passes from Oyonnax to Le Grand-Bornand in fourth place, seconds behind stage winner Dylan Teuns.
Teuns, a Belgian rider for the Bahrain team, managed to conserve a slim lead over the hard-pushing Pogacar over the final peak before negotiating the tricky descent to the finish line.
Mathieu van der Poel relinquished the lead he had held for six days when he faded fast midway through the brutal stage that also inflicted even heavier losses on last year’s runner-up Primoz Roglic and 2018 winner Geraint Thomas. The two pre-race title hopefuls, who had both taken tumbles in the first week, completely disconnected even before the serious ascents started.
Wout van Aert remained in second place but fell from 30 seconds behind at the start of the stage to 1 minute, 48 seconds behind Pogacar.
Carapaz finished over three minutes behind Pogacar and is now five minutes back overall in fifth.
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Tadej Pogacar takes Tour de France yellow jersey in mountains originally appeared on NBCSports.com