The defending champion began the day just 10 seconds ahead of two-time winner Pogacar after two mountain stages over the weekend failed to find any meaningful difference between the two men who have won the previous three Tours between them.
But in the only race against the clock this year, Vingegaard blew away the entire field over the 22.4 kilometres between Passy and Combloux, putting 98 seconds into Pogacar to open up a significant lead with only two mountain stages remaining.
It was a stunning ride from Vingegaard, who started his effort two minutes after Pogacar but could see his rival up the road as they came towards the finish, knowing he now has him right where he wants him with five stages remaining.
“I was feeling great today,” said the Dane, whose only previous professional time trial win came at the Gran Camino at the start of the season. “I think it’s the best time trial I’ve ever done. I’m really proud of what I did today and really happy about the victory.
“I think today I even surprised myself with the time trial I did. I didn’t expect to do so well…
“I had incredible legs today, at one point I even thought my power sensor was broken. It was probably one of my best days on the bike.”
After much speculation over tactics, Pogacar chose to change bikes midway through the stage, getting on to his regular road bike for the final climb to the finish while Vingegaard stuck to his time trial machine.
Pogacar was already more than 30 seconds down on Vingegaard at that point, and the bike change brought no benefits as Vingegaard only continued to make up time. Given the way the Jumbo-Visma man was riding, it surely did not matter what sort of bike Pogacar was on – there was no way for him to win this day.
Although the circumstances did not quite match, watching Pogacar ride up the final hill wide eyed evoked memories of the Slovenian doing this in reverse to Vingegaard’s team-mate Primoz Roglic on La Planches des Belles Filles to win the 2020 Tour.
“I’m a bit surprised because I felt I was doing a solid time trial,” Pogacar said. “But at the end, the gap is big. At the beginning I was following the times of Wout van Aert and I was telling myself that I was on the right track because I was gaining time on him.
“Anyway, I gave it all. It’s not over because we have a very hard stage tomorrow. We’ll try to find a plan and execute it but for sure it’ll be hard to recover almost two minutes. Hopefully I’ll be able to bounce back like I did in the Pyrenees after losing time on Marie-Blanque.”
Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma team-mate Wout van Aert was third on the stage, nearly three minutes off Vingegaard’s time as he called himself “the best of the normal riders”.
Simon Yates finished fifth on the stage to strengthen his hold on eighth overall and gain time on those just above him in the general classification, while Pogacar’s team-mate Adam Yates finished seventh to overhaul Carlos Rodriguez and move up to third overall, albeit almost nine minutes down.
But while they may now have two riders in the podium positions overall, there was little sense of celebration at UAE Team Emirates after the stage after Pogacar’s losses.
With only two mountain stages remaining, including Wednesday’s queen stage over the Col de la Loze, Pogacar must produce something very special to wrest the yellow jersey from Vingegaard, even if the Jumbo-Visma rider was not ready to get ahead of himself yet.
“There’s still a lot of hard stages to come,” he said. “We have to keep fighting the next days and we’re looking forward to it.”