Ineos Grenadiers’ rider Richie Porte has claimed that Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) is in a league of his own at the Tour de France.
Pogacar has a lead of over five minutes at this year’s Tour, with the rest of the pack now having to choose different goals with the last week ahead.
The Slovenian rider is 5m18s ahead of Rigoberto Uran in second, while Uran has just a minute between him and the next four riders, meaning the last two podium places are still open.
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Porte’s Ineos colleague Richard Carapaz is in fourth place, 5m33s behind the leader, and has been aggressive in his pursuit of Pogacar but failed to bring him in.
Porte admitted to Cyclingnews that his team would have to face up to the situation ahead of the closing stages of the race.
"We've not had that discussion, but we'll have that later, that's the honest truth," he said.
"We've got two stages on Wednesday and Thursday that finish uphill, so we'll look to exploit that. We still think it's possible to put him on the podium. That's the goal," he said when he weighed up Carapaz’s options.
The Australian explained that Pogacar’s lead now looked insurmountable.
"When you've got a guy who is five minutes up and he's shown time and time again that he's at a level above everyone else then it's probably better to just aim for the podium," he observed.
He's not getting caught up in the moment and he's doing a great job. It's not going to be easy, but we have to put him and guys like Jonas Vingegaard under pressure. We tried that on stage 15 but it was to no avail really.
"It's not just Pogačar but the other guys, but when you look at him, and they say he doesn't like the heat, you have to give him full credit because he's all class. Last year he won under different circumstances but here you have to tip your hat to him because he has dealt with the pressure.”
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The Ineos rider said the only hope would be a disastrous stage for the current leader, not that he was wishing for nor expecting one.
"He's only human, isn't he," Porte conceded.
"For sure, and you don't wish it on anyone but there are different things that can happen but for us, we just need to stick to our game plan. If Carapaz is good enough to take some time out of some of the guys, then so be it. We've got some hard stages coming up and a time trial and if someone gets sick we can look to exploit them that way too. At the moment the top five are pretty rock solid.
"It's been the same for everyone really. The starts of the stages have had no control and it's either crosswinds, uphill starts, or technical descents, so it hasn't felt like a normal Tour. The other day it took about 86km before the break went and normally that's reserved for the final week, but it's been like that for the last two weeks now. There's been no let-up."
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