Evenepoel survives fright to win time trial as Pogacar holds lead

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

It was a 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 on the day in the vineyards of Burgundy.

Evenepoel had a wider margin of victory but lost a few seconds after being caught by a sudden noise with three kilometers to go.

The Belgian initially thought he had a mechanical problem and jumped hard to test his bike and make sure he could continue.

“I thought I had a problem but it was actually crowd noise,” said Quick Step’s Evenepoel.

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

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

Veteran Primoz Roglic was third at 34 seconds and two-time defending champion Jonas Vingegaard fourth at 37 seconds.

The result left the ‘Fab Four’ favorites in the top four positions after seven stages of the 21-day race that concludes in Nice.

Pogacar holds a 33-second lead over Evenepoel in the general classification, with Vingegaard third at 1min 15sec.

“I knew I felt good. My sports director was very positive in my micro,” said Pogacar, who, however, looked sad at the finish line.

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

“It’s a long way to Nice but if all goes well I should be good for the final day,” he said.

“Not much to look forward to: stressful days.

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

The four favorites raced down the start ramp at Nuits-Saint-Georges within ten minutes of each other, making the finish a tantalizing edge of the seat affair.

At the raucous finish line, fans hit the barriers and cheered a seesaw battle that went well for all four contenders.

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

Dane Vingegaard has beaten Pogacar in the last two time trials they have faced, but lost time to the Slovenian on Friday.

As his reputation grows by the day in this Tour, Evenepoel looked ahead to Sunday’s stage, a 199km circuit through the Champagne region that includes 35km on gravel.

“I ran over him twice. It’s going to be stressful, long, nerve-wracking, you can’t really win the Tour there, but you could lose it there with a bit of bad luck,” he said.

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

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