It was another day when Pogacar looked imperious in yellow – and his first victory while wearing the leader’s jersey rarely looked in doubt from the moment he attacked eight kilometres from the summit finish as the riders raced into the clouds in the Pyrenees.
Rigoberto Uran, who began the day second, was dropped as only Vingegaard and Carapaz managed to stick with the Slovenian. A game of high-stakes poker began on the double-digit gradients, but Pogacar boasted the winning hand all along.
Jumbo-Visma’s Vingegaard, the 24-year-old Dane who was expected to be riding this Tour in support of Pogacar’s friend and rival Primoz Roglic was prepared to work with the UAE Team Emirates rider, but Carapaz sat on their wheels, doing his best to look like he was on his limit.
Pogacar was not buying it, putting in a series of digs designed to drop the Ecuadorian. Carapaz responded every time, then launched his own move 1500 metres from the summit – desperate to deliver a stage win for an Ineos Grenadiers team yet to take anything of note from this Tour.
But if Carapaz had been bluffing up to now, he would pay as a determined Pogacar refused to let him go.
Vingegaard was briefly dropped, temporarily losing his grip on second place, but he too would come past Carapaz before the finish as the former Giro d’Italia winner did genuinely run out of steam by the top.
Victory extends Pogacar’s advantage to five minutes and 39 seconds as Vingegaard settles into second place, four seconds ahead of Carapaz in third.
It was a second stage win of this year’s Tour for Pogacar after the stage five time trial, but to take a summit finish in yellow is a much more significant statement.
“We were 50-50 on whether to go for the stage or defend but everyone felt good so we tried and we succeeded and I’m super happy,” the 22-year-old said.
“The three of us went clear but only me and Jonas were working. We tried a couple of times to go clear, just because more time is better but they were really good today. In the end, I just sprinted in the last 50 metres and it was enough.
“(Jonas) said to me that Carapaz was bluffing and I knew it also. It’s nothing unusual, this is the tactic, but when he attacked I was really driven to catch him and just go with his wheel but it was super hard.
“It’s a fantastic day. To win in yellow is something I cannot describe.”
Anthony Perez and Dorian Godon – the last two survivors of a six-man breakaway – had started the final climb with a gap of almost four minutes over the peloton and dreams of a French stage victory on Bastille Day.
Perez attacked his former team-mate with 13km of the climb to go, but the 30-year-old soon began to see his advantage crumble – and hopes of a first Cofidis stage win at the Tour since 2008 were ended as Pogacar made his move just as the group of favourites caught sight of Perez’s back wheel.
There is one more mountain stage to come as Thursday takes the peloton over the mighty Tourmalet to Luz Ardiden, but any hope for Pogacar’s rivals is rapidly running out.