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Tour de France starts with epic Pogačar Vingegaard duel ahead

The first stage of the Tour de France cycling race was won by Frenchman Romain Bardet on Saturday, who cycled the 206 kilometres from Florence to Rimini in 5 hours, 22 minutes and 7 seconds. Dutchman Frank Van Den Broek was second with the same time and Belgian Wout Van Aert was 5 seconds behind in third place.

But Bardet is less likely to win the overall race: he and the other 38 riders still have 3,292kms to go and there will doubtless be a few who drop out along the way.

Danish rider Jonas Vingegaard won the legendary race last year for the second time in a row, and this year all eyes are on his main rival, Slovenian rider Tadej Pogačar, who won in 2020 and 2021.

The duel between the two may dominate this year's race.

When both men faced off in the heat of July last year, the main question mark was whether Pogacar would be fit enough to mount a decent challenge.

This year, as the two cyclists prepare to write the next chapter of one of the greatest rivalries in the storied history of the Tour de France, the scenario has switched.

Pogacar, the two-time champion from Slovenia who finished behind Vingegaard the past two years, is in top shape ahead of Saturday's start in the Italian city of Florence. It is the form of the Danish titleholder that is worrying his team following the crash that wreaked havoc with his season.

“Of course, we don’t know how far he can go yet," said Merijn Zeeman, the sporting director of Vingegaard's team. "We are being cautious because he has not been able to race and his preparation has been less than ideal, to say the least.”

Vingegaard was hospitalised for nearly two weeks in Spain in April following a high-speed crash in the Tour of the Basque Country. He sustained a broken collarbone and ribs and