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Tour de France - Cycling: Vingegaard on verge of Tour glory

Denmark's Jonas Vingegaard says he needs to stay focused despite all but sealing victory in the 2022 Tour de France with his superb victory on Stage 18 on Thursday.

The 25-year-old is now as short as 1/50 to win the race this week after he won the final mountain stage in the Pyrenees following a dramatic battle with two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar.

Great Britain's Geraint Thomas also enjoyed himself on Thursday as he finished fourth to boost his chances of a top-three finish in the general classification.

Pogacar's error aids Vingegaard's glory bid

After nearly 70 hours in the saddle over the last three weeks, the wait is nearly over for Jumbo-Visma's Vinegegaard. The Dane's name is almost etched in the history books after his crucial victory on Stage 18 of the Tour de France.

Vingegaard went into Thursday's stage as the man to beat, but he managed to enhance his position and move within touching distance of his first overall victory in the iconic race.

The Jumbo-Visma rider won his second stage of the Tour after his victory at the Col du Granon in the Alps last week. With only one big test left before the race reaches Paris, Vingegaard appears to have done enough after stretching his lead to three minutes and 26 seconds.

His Stage 18 victory was not straightforward, though, with the youngster making the sporting decision to wait for his main title rival after a crash. Pogacar, the two-time defending champion, ran wide when trying to force the pace.

After tumbling into the gravel, Pogacar quickly got back on his bike and tried to catch up, only to see that Vingegaard had already decided to wait for him in an incredible display of sportsmanship.

It was not long before Vingegaard and teammate Wout van Aert peeled away from the Slovenian, though, and Pogacar eventually finished one minute and four seconds off the pace.

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History beckons for Vingegaard this week, but his mind is still firmly focused on the task at hand.

He told reporters: "It's incredible. I said this to my girlfriend and my daughter this morning that I wanted to win for them, and I did. This one is for my two girls at home.

"I think (Pogacar) missed a corner, and then he went into some gravel; he tried to steer it out, and the bike disappeared under him. Then I waited for him.

"I don't want to talk about (the overall title) yet. There is also tomorrow and a day after tomorrow, and then we are in Paris, so let's talk about it in two days."

Thomas leading the way for Britain

With Chris Froome unable to complete this year's Tour de France, Wales' Geraint Thomas will lead the charge for Great Britain.

While Pogacar needs a huge swing in momentum, he is comfortably second in the general classification ahead of Thomas. The former Team Sky rider is four minutes and 34 seconds behind Pogacar, but he is over three minutes ahead of David Gaudu of France.

The 2018 Tour de France winner will have to watch one of his rivals win the Yellow Jersey this summer, but he looks in pole position to secure a top-three finish at least.

Speaking about his performance, former Olympian Thomas told Velo News: "I felt relief that it was over. It felt like I was just going through highs and lows today, but I felt alright. On the last climb, I just wanted to stay with them until the steep bit, because that's the faster bit, and then just ride my own pace. I struggled a bit there, and then I had a bit of a bad patch.

"We still have tomorrow, with crosswinds all day, nothing is straightforward in this race. Then there's a TT; I'll try to recover and get ready for that. It's all good prep for the Commonwealth Games."

Sprinters rejoice ahead of Stage 19

The 19th stage of this year's Tour de France will take place on Friday, but while Thursday's battle was one for the climbers, Stage 19 is a favourite for the sprinters.

Those competing at the front of the peloton by the time the stage reaches its climax are unlikely to shake up the top of the standings, but that does not mean Friday's battle will not be dramatic.

The peloton will make their way from Castelnau-Magnoac to Cahors via a 188.3km route, but the uphill finish means some outsiders could throw their hat into the ring for a stage victory.

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