What’s fun for Brandon McNulty? Shredding the Tour de France peloton to bits on Wednesday’s 17th stage.
The American rider on UAE Team Emirates won the most combative rider’s prize Wednesday and finished a career-best third at Peyragudes to set up Tadej Pogacar for the stage win after leaving the bunch blown to bits in his wake.
McNulty promises more for the Hautacam except category summit Thursday high in the French Pyrenees in what could be Pogacar’s last chance to recapture the yellow jersey.
“More pasta and carbs, it was fun,” said McNulty when asked what he ate for breakfast. “I felt really good, and I was in the break [Tuesday], but I came back to help Tadej, so I knew I had good legs. The plan was that I do 15 minutes full on the final climb, and then he would go, but in the end, we chased hard and we did everything we could.”
McNulty’s comments reveal that Pogacar didn’t have the legs to try to come over the top in the final climb up Peyragudes to try to attack Jonas Vingegaard.
Instead, Pogacar edged Vingegaard in the steepest part of the climb in the closing meters to win his third stage of the 2022 Tour, and regain four seconds in finish-line bonus seconds.
Pogacar starts Thursday’s 143.2km stage from Lourdes to Hautacam in second place at 2:18 back, and McNulty said it will be “tough” to try to take back that much time Thursday.
“It will be tough. Jonas has been so strong the whole race. We will keep fighting until Thursday, and the TT is also good for Tadej, so we’ll see,” said McNulty, who admitted he struggled in the Alps.
“I had hoped to be good in the Alps, but I was just not there, so I had to re-set and recover for this, and I was glad to be able to come around to where I was,” he said. “Strongest climber? No, Tadej and Jonas are at another level, I was happy to be in the final three, but they are a bit better than me.”
The day’s big effort put McNulty in the spotlight and earned him a trip to the winner’s podium as the day’s most aggressive rider. He will race with a red number bib Thursday.
Thierry Gouvenou, Tour de France race director and president of the jury, said McNulty was the clear winner of the daily prize.
“Tadej Pogacar’s line-up skinned the peloton on the final climbs of the day. Brandon McNulty’s work in the final isolated the Slovenian to challenge for the stage win,” he said. “He was impressive, the Prix Antargaz de la fighting spirit is also a reward for this spirit of initiative and resilience.”
McNulty, racing his second Tour with UAE Team Emirates, said even though the team is down to four riders it vows to keep attacking.
“Tadej told me for 50 minutes in the last two climbs and said ‘you have to go all out,’” he said. “It was a big effort but I’m happy to have succeeded. Getting on a Tour de France podium is always a reward. To be in the lead on the last climb leading the group was very special. You have to stay focused for [Thursday].”
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