Tadej Pogacar keeps control as Patrick Konrad wins stage 16 of Tour de France

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Patrick Konrad soloed to victory on stage 16 of the Tour de France in Saint-Gaudens as Tadej Pogacar enjoyed a stress-free day to retain his yellow jersey.

Konrad attacked out of a breakaway on the Col de Portet-d’Aspet, the penultimate climb of the 169-kilometre stage from Pas de la Case, as the two-time Austrian champion took his first win outside of his national race.

With the peloton taking it relatively easy on this first of three Pyrenean stages following Monday’s rest day, the stage became a battle of two breakaways following the intermediate sprint.

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Konrad, part of a leading three-man group, made his move at the foot of the Portet-d’Aspet, a little more than 35km from the finish, knowing he could not afford for a chasing pack that included quick men Sonny Colbrelli and Michael Matthews to make it back before the valley road to the finish.

Colbrelli and David Gaudu attempted a counter-attack, but could not reel in Konrad as he delivered a second stage win of the Tour for Bora-Hansgrohe.

The 29-year-old admitted he had been taking notes as Matej Mohoric and Bauke Mollema took long-range victories on stages seven and 14 of this Tour respectively.

“I had been in the breakaway three times already and each time I waited too long to attack,” he said.

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“We saw it when Mohoric went really early and Mollema attacked early, so I said to myself in this situation ‘I am the guy’ and I gave it a try. I’m really happy that it worked out and I had the legs to bring it to the finish.”

Colbrelli would take second – the Italian sprinter and national champion having now twice finished in podium places on mountain stages in this year’s Tour while not finishing higher than fifth in a bunch finish.

He outsprinted Michael Matthews to the line as both men took a bite out of Mark Cavendish’s advantage in the points classification – the Manxman’s lead was cut from 72 points to 37 ahead of Matthews.

It was a relatively stress-free day for Pogacar as the main group of favourites looked content to follow each other before bigger tests to come in the next two days, although they did stretch their legs with a short sprint to the line that did not produce any time gaps.

France Cycling Tour de France
Tadej Pogacar, right, enjoyed a relaxed day with no changes at the top of the standings (Christophe Ena/AP)

The main concern on the road away from Andorra was the weather – riders stopped before the official start of the stage to remove the cold weather gear they had worn for the roll-out in Pas de la Case, while wet conditions produced nerves on the treacherous descent of the Portet-d’Aspet.

But everyone navigated the day safely, meaning Pogacar continues to lead by five minutes and 18 seconds from Rigoberto Uran – although the race for second is on with Jonas Vingegaard, Richard Carapaz, Ben O’Connor and Wilko Keldermann all still within a minute of Uran.

It was another day where Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates did little to control the race, allowing the fight for the breakaway to rage for the first half of the race, although at no time did the defending champion look under any pressure.

“I don’t know what we were doing (in the sprint finish) but it was good to open the legs for tomorrow,” Pogacar said with a smile. “Even if it’s a flat as a pancake you need to be concentrating and focused because that’s cycling.”

Things get tougher on Wednesday with a 178km stage from Muret including passes of the Col de Peyresourde and the Col de Val Louron-Azet before a summit finish on the Col du Portet.

“I think tomorrow is the hardest day of the Tour so let’s hit it,” Pogacar said. “I did a recon of tomorrow and the day after so I know the climbs, but maybe it would have been better if I did not see it.”

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