By Julien Pretot
ANDORRA (Reuters) - Tadej Pogacar fears the heat more than his main Tour de France rivals and now that the race is heading towards the cooler French Pyrenees, the defending champion's challengers may have missed their best chance to unsettle him.
The Slovenian suffered as the sun beat down on Mont Ventoux last week, showing rare signs of weakness, but as temperatures went beyond 30 degrees Celsius on the climbs leading to Andorra Pogacar did not flinch.
Heading into the second rest day with five days of competitive racing left and more than five minutes ahead of his challengers, Pogacar is in a comfortable position.
"Today they tried to attack but I felt good, unfortunately for them because it would have been a good day for them to make me crack," the 22-year-old told reporters.
"After today, I don't know (what scares me). Today was one of the hardest days. Yesterday was super hot, Mont Ventoux was super hot, that was the scariest thing for me before the Tour.
"But I'm not confident in the heat but after this week where every day was super hot I feel more comfortable. A lot can happen but I'm going really confident into the third week."
Rival teams also seem believe the Tour might already be wrapped up.
"I don't think he's unbreakable but as (team manager) Dave (Brailsford) would say: he's like a bamboo. He bends, but he rarely snaps, so we will see," said 2018 champion Geraint Thomas, who is out of contention but working for fourth-placed Richard Carapaz at Ineos Grenadiers.
"But you've got to keep faith and confidence. Anyone can have a bad day. He's been racing hard and aggressively from the start, so you just never know."
Pogacar, who beat fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic in the final time trial last year, thinks his form has been much the same.
"It's been very difficult because in the first week there were a lot of crashes, short, intense efforts but in terms of long-distance power I have pretty much the same numbers as last year," he said.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)