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Defending Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar refused to blame his high-speed downhill fall for losing ground on Tour de France leader Jonas Vingegaard after stage 18 in the Pyrenees, insisting "the best man won".
Denmark's Vingegaard crossed the summit finish alone over a minute ahead of the Slovenian Team UAE rider to climb 3min 26sec ahead in the overall rankings with three stages remaining.
"I'm proud of myself," said the 2020 and 2021 champion Pogacar. "But today the best man won."
The key moment came 26km out when Pogacar's desperate descent went wrong on a tight corner.
"I thought I was out of that corner but he took me by surprise and there was some gravel and I hit the ground," said Pogacar.
"I have a bruised backside but I was fine to go on. I tried, I went all in but Jumbo were so strong."
Vingegaard, sportingly, then waited for his rival to catch up rather than racing away.
On the upper reaches of the last climb, Vingegaard was helped by teammate Wout van Aert, acting as sherpa.
"I lost a bit of motivation on the final climb. But I didn't give up, I hit my limits," added Pogacar.
The defending champion still has a brief glimmer of hope with a 41km time-trial on Saturday.
That stage 20 may provide one last thrilling chapter to an epic struggle between the pair who have shadowed each other through Denmark, Switzerland and France.
In 2020, Pogacar beat Primoz Roglic on a 26km time-trial, famously overturning a large deficit to set up victory.