Jonas Vingegaard on track for second straight Tour de France win

COURCHEVEL, France -- Jonas Vingegaard is on course to bring the yellow jersey to Paris for a second straight year after the Danish rider took a huge lead over his main rival in cycling's biggest race.

The defending champion dropped Tadej Pogacar on Wednesday in the last big stage in the Alps to increase his overall lead to 7 minutes, 35 seconds. Barring any big crash, he looks set to win his second Tour title.

Vingegaard finished the 17th stage in fourth place, almost six minutes before an exhausted Pogacar crossed the finish line.

The race ends in the French capital with a largely ceremonial stage Sunday. There is just one tough stage remaining before then -- on Saturday in the Alsace region, with the peloton facing a total of 3,600 meters of climbing.

But with such a big gap between the Tour's main contenders, it's unlikely to have an impact in the fight for the yellow jersey.

Pogacar, a two-time champion who was dethroned by Vingegaard last year, lost contact about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the finish at the ski resort of Courchevel.

The punishing trek had been dubbed the queen stage of this year's Tour because of its daunting profile. The last of four climbs was a 28.4-kilometer (17.6-mile) slog up Col de la Loze, close to the uphill finish.

A day after Vingegaard destroyed the field in the race's time trial, Pogacar did not find the strength to attack and got dropped in the monster climb. His teammate Marc Soler stayed with him to try and pace him back, in vain.

The day had started on a sour note for Pogacar, who crashed just a few kilometers into the 166-kilometer (103-mile) ride. The Slovenian leader of the UAE Team Emirates fell off at a moderate speed on an uphill section near the foot of the Col des Saisies after apparently touching the wheel of a rider in front of him.

Pogacar was quickly back on his bike and continued racing to rejoin the main contenders before a group of breakaway riders moved away from the pack.

On paper, the punishing Col de La Loze culminating at 2,304 meters above sea level -- with some slopes with a gradient more than 24% -- looked like the perfect playground for a final showdown in thin air between Pogacar and Vingegaard.

But Pogacar did not have good legs, and the duel never took place.

Once Pogacar cracked, Vingegaard dropped all the riders who still accompanied him, chasing behind the remaining breakaway riders. He first joined his Jumbo-Visma teammate Wilco Kelderman, and the pair soldiered on together on brutal slopes.

Vingegaard's ferocious ride was briefly put to a halt by a race motorbike that was stopped in the middle of the narrow and winding road up to the summit.

At the front of the stage, Felix Gall resisted the chase to post the biggest win of his career. Simon Yates was second, with Pello Bilbao completing the stage podium.

Adam Yates kept his third place overall, 10:45 off the pace.

Vingegaard took control of the Tour during Tuesday's time trial. He had started Stage 16 only 10 seconds ahead of Pogacar after little could separate the duo in a fascinating duel over the last two weeks. However, when it came down to a head-to-head battle in the race against the clock, Vingegaard was in a class of his own.

He finished the 22.4-kilometer (14-mile) hilly route from Passy to Combloux 1 minute, 38 seconds ahead of Pogacar.

Pogacar had his Tour de France preparations hampered by a left wrist fracture he suffered in April during the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic and required surgery. But his tremendous performances over the first two weeks of racing had erased initial doubts about his Tour form.