Tadej Pogacar in yellow takes the day's winner Jonas Vingegaard's hand

Le Lioran (France) (AFP) - Jonas Vingegaard edged Tadej Pogacar as a battle between the four Tour de France favourites played out over a series of hills in the central Cantal region on Wednesday.

Defending champion Vingegaard reeled in Slovenian Pogacar’s ferocious attacks before a thrilling finish on stage 11 with Remco Evenepoel in third at 25sec and Primoz Roglic fourth at 45sec despite a late accident.

While the stage win went to Dane Vingegaard, the 27-year-old’s tactics also won him a moral victory in the psychological struggle between the pair of two time Tour winners.

The gathering war of attrition between Visma-Lease a Bike’s Vingegaard and his challengers reached a crescendo as it climbed to the remote ski station of Le Lioran at 1,242m altitude, but surprisingly it left the top four positions unchanged.

Pogacar, 25, leads Belgian Evenepoel by 1min 06sec, Vingegaard is in third place at 1min 14sec, and the yellow jersey’s compatriot Roglic is fourth at 2min 45sec.

This was Vingegaard’s first stage win on this year’s Tour and above all proof he has overcome his March accidents and 12 days in hospital.

For Pogacar it is back to the drawing board after his bold, but foiled attempts to distance his rivals on a handful of testing climbs to the west of the city of Clermont.

Romain Bardet, who grew up in the region, was greeted by a throng of ardent supporters on what was billed as ‘Virage Bardet’ (Bardet corner) where thousands of locals and backers bid him farewell on his final Tour de France.

He came second on the 2016 Tour de France and finished in the same position at the world championships two years later.