Evenepoel survives fright to win time trial as Pogacar holds lead

JEVRAY-CHAMBERTAIN: Remzo Evenepoel recovered from a scare to win a thrilling stage seven of the Tour de France on Friday as Thaddeus 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 on the day in the vineyards of Burgundy.

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

The Belgian initially thought he had a mechanical problem and bounced 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, but I lost four or five seconds.”

“The fans were great, and it’s great to hear them clapping, it was crazy, a dream come true.”

Veteran Primož Roglić was third with 34 seconds, and double defending champion Jonas Vingegaard was fourth with 37 seconds.

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

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

“I knew I was having a good time.” My sports director was super positive in my micro”, said Pogačar, who nevertheless looked grimly at the finish line.

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

“It’s a long way to Nice but if everything goes well it will be good for the last 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 Noits-Saint-Georges within ten minutes of each other, making the final a thrilling edge-of-the-seat affair.

At the raucous finish line, fans hit the barriers and cheered a see-saw battle that turned out well for all four contenders.

Evenepoel has now beaten Pogačar in all six time trials in which they have competed.

Dane Vingegaard beat Pogačar in the last two time trials they faced, but lost time to the Slovenian on Friday.

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

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

Before that, Saturday’s 183km long stage ran through more wine-growing regions where attacks from the lower ranks should shake things up.

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