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Rodez (France) (AFP) – Tour de France leader Jonas Vingaard took a blow to the body when co-captain Primoz Roglic withdrew from the 21-day bike race ahead of Sunday’s stage 15 in Carcassonne.
Vingeaard is locked in a desperate fight with defending champion Tadej Pogacar after he spectacularly ripped his head off in the Alps.
Roglic was injured in a fall on the cobblestones of the mining roads of northern France during the fifth stage, but played a fundamental role in the collapse of Pogacar on the Col du Granon during the second of the three stages alpine this week.
Vingaard and Roglic started the Tour as co-captains of Jumbo-Visma, but the older of the two is now trailing by more than 30 minutes.
During Saturday’s stage, Roglic joked that he is now preparing for the Vuelta a Espana, of which he is a three-time defending champion.
But Sunday’s announcement is not only a surprise, it also weakens Vingaard, who leads Pogacar by 2min 22sec thanks to the collective efforts of his team.
Roglic said he was leaving to ‘allow my wounds to heal properly’.
“We decided not to start today,” Roglic said on the Jumbo-Visma team’s Twitter account.
“I’m proud of my contribution to the current standings and I’m confident the team will deliver on our yellow and green ambitions.”
The move will also give him ten extra days to prepare for the Vuelta.
Former ski jumper Roglic, 32, suffers from shoulder and lower back problems.
Both Roglic and Vingaard came second to great rival Pogacar in 2020 and 2021 respectively, but said ahead of this Tour the 23-year-old Slovenian from UAE Team Emirates could be beaten by their united front.
“As long as we work together, do the best we can together, we believe we can beat him,” Roglic said two days before the start of the 109th edition with three stages in Denmark.
Vingaard, 25, a lowly former fish factory worker, said he and Roglic liked going for a beer together and the pair worked well together.
The Slovenian had gradually built a 39-second lead over Vingaard in week one, even when he lost two team-mates to Covid-19 he looked untouchable.
Until Roglic launched a series of savage attacks on Pogacar at the Col du Granon, and against all hope the two-time defending champion collapsed in the scorching heat, leaving Vingaard in full control.
“My team was amazing, especially Primoz, he gave his all, what a generous and amazing guy,” Vingaard said after the stage.
“I can’t get over it,” he added.
After Sunday’s hard work in a heatwave in the fortified south-west city of Carcassonne, the Tour is taking the day off ahead of next week’s Pyrenean mountain stages where the fate of the 2022 yellow jersey looks set to be decided .
However, Vingaard and Roglic can also expect to be challenged by Ineos pair Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates, who are third and fifth, either side of in-form French ace Romain Bardet.
“I have a lot of respect for Tadej, but maybe now I will attack him,” the Dane said on Saturday.
One wonders if he still feels so confident.
© 2022 AFP