Jonas Vingegaard won stage 11 of the Tour de France as Tadej Pogacar’s bid to distance his main rival for yellow fell short in the Massif Central.

It came down to a sprint finish between the two in Le Lioran but for once Pogacar came off second best in such a scenario as defending champion Vingegaard took it by half a wheel.

That was after Vingegaard clawed back the 30-second lead Pogacar had built after his attack on the Pas de Peyrol, some 30km from the finish of this 211km stage from Evaux-les-Bains to Le Lioran.

Vingegaard remains third overall after Remco Evenepoel fought his way to the line to keep second place, but the win shows the Dane’s form is where it needs to be in his first race since suffering horrible injuries in a crash in the Basque Country in April.

Cycling Tour de France
Tadej Pogacar tried to go solo 31km from the finish before Joans Vingegaard recovered (Jerome Delay/AP)

The 27-year-old, who has come back from a punctured lung, fractured ribs and collarbone in the last few months, shed tears after the stage.

“Of course it’s very, very emotional for me,” Vingegaard said. “Coming back from the crash, it means a lot. All the things I went through in the last few months, it makes you think of that and I would never have been able to do this without my family.

“I couldn’t follow the attack (Pogacar) had, it was very, very strong, and I just had to fight. I didn’t think I would be able to make it back, I just kept fighting and I made it back. I was a bit surprised I could beat him in the sprint but of course it means so much.

“I never thought I would be able to do this three months ago.”

Pogacar did extend his lead in yellow, now 66 seconds over Evenepoel with Vingegaard another eight seconds back, but the Slovenian was left wondering how his plan to take total control of this race fell apart.

“Now we can all say that it’s a fair fight, he’s in top shape and he beat me really good on the line, I did a pretty good sprint after that type of stage,” Pogacar said. “It was a really tough day but I enjoyed it, a beautiful day out there and let’s continue the Tour like this.

“I think we matched each other. I beat him on the first climb and he came back on the second, then we went together and he won the sprint so ‘chapeau’ to him, but we can see we’re pretty matched.”

The second longest stage of this Tour had been earmarked as one for a breakaway but Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates clearly had other ideas. It took 80km for a small group including Ireland’s Ben Healy and Scotland’s Oscar Onley to get away, but they were never given the opportunity to build a lead.

Having been guided up the category one climb of the Peyrol by his team-mates, Pogacar launched his move 600 metres from the summit and quickly distanced his rivals, a gap that only grew on the descent.

Pogacar began the Col de Pertus with an advantage of just over 30 seconds, but after Vingegaard left behind Evenepoel and Primoz Roglic, he ate into Pogacar’s lead before catching him just before the summit to set up a sprint for the bonus seconds on offer.

Pogacar narrowly won that one but it would be a different story on the finish line. Pogacar sat on Vingegaard’s wheel until the final 150m, but did not have the power to come around.

Behind, Evenepoel and Roglic had clawed back some of the deficit that had reached 50 seconds at one point, with Evenepoel finishing 25 seconds down on the front two in order to narrowly hold on to second place overall.

Roglic crashed on the final run into town, but was subsequently awarded the same time as Evenepoel with the incident coming inside the final three kilometres of the stage.