By Julien Pretot

CAUTERETS-CAMBASQUE, France (Reuters) – For a minute Tadej Pogacar thought his Tour de France challenge would be effectively over on Thursday as threatening skies gathered on top of the Col du Tourmalet and Jonas Vingegaard was gearing up to go on the attack again.

On Wednesday, the Slovenian lost more than a minute to the defending champion in the first mountain stage and departed from Laruns worried about what might come next after his preparation for the race was hampered by a wrist fracture last April.

After resisting Vingegaard’s attack in the Tourmalet, Pogacar went solo in the last climb to win the sixth stage and halve his deficit in the overall standings as the Dane claimed the yellow jersey but ended up being the more concerned rider at the end of a vintage day.

“I was worried, who would not be after Jonas’ incredible display yesterday,” the 24-year-old Pogacar said.

“When they (Vingegaard’s Jumbo Visma team) started pulling in the Tourmalet, I thought, shit, this is going to happen like yesterday then we can pack our bags and go home.

“But luckily, I had good legs today and could follow on the Tourmalet quite comfortably and when I felt it was the right moment I attacked.”

The attack was brutal, and Vingegaard was immediately dropped as the roles were reversed with the defending champion digging deep to cut his losses.

“I would not say it was revenge but it’s sweet to win today and take time back,” UAE Emirates rider Pogacar said.

“I feel relieved, much better now.”

Vingegaard’s disappointment barely showed after he crossed the finish line and was greeted by his rival.

“First off, I’m happy to be in yellow again,” he said.

“Pogacar was in a better day. We tried in the Tourmalet as everyone saw but we could not drop him. We had (team mate) Wout van Aert to then set the pace in the valley (ahead).

“It would have been perfect but he (Pogacar) had better legs. I’m just going to enjoy being in yellow and fight to keep the jersey.”

His team mate Sepp Kuss, who set a high pace in the Tourmalet, believes Jumbo Visma will have other chances.

“It didn’t go as planned but it is what it is, these are little details and we will have other opportunities in the coming days.”

Overall, Vingegaard leads second-placed Pogacar by 25 seconds with the next mountain test coming on Sunday with the much-feared ascent of the Puy de Dome, a 13.3km climb at 7.7%.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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