TOUR’22 Final Wrap: The Fast Excitement Never Stopped!
Ed's Tour de France Final Week
Final Round Up: The fastest Tour de France in history is over. One of the best, many say – excitement every day and we all thought Tadej Pogačar was going to win, but… Ed Hood gives us his thoughts on stage 16 through to the final stage 21 in Paris; the win for Jonas Vingegaard and the dominant Jumbo-Visma team.
An emotional win for Canada’s Hugo Houle who goes from being a strong work horse and team player who can always get a contract to being a Tour de France stage winner; Canada’s first since Steve Bauer in 1988. There was a clue that the man was on form when he was third in St. Etienne on stage 13; but third isn’t first – CHAPEAU, Monsieur. And a second Tour de France stage win for Israel-Premier Tech, their 12th of the year – ‘Mazel Tov!’
An emotional win for Hugo Houle
And despite what the commentators might say and Yates, Bardet, Pidcock and Mas all losing time it was never going to be ‘real’ GC day – that is involving the ‘Big Two’ of Pogačar and Vingegaard.
Attacks from Pogačar
Yes, yes, Pog put a couple of digs in but that was more for the cameras – that long, downhill to line meant that it was only those who are feeling the pace in this baking third week who would lose time. Tomorrow’s and Thursday’s summit finishes will be where the penultimate acts of the end game are fought out – with the final act in the 40 kilometres stage 20 time test.
Jumbo-Visma looked strong as usual
If Pog is to win then he must get the Dane in sight for a late time trial grab – but right now the man from tiny Hillerslev in North West Denmark looks very difficult to dislodge. And what about the Dane’s henchman, that Van Aert character?
Just another day for Wout
You’d think he’d have the common decency to look at least a little tired after putting in another massive day? As noted above, bad days for some but good days for Quintana, Gaudu and Vlasov; how much higher can they climb? Messrs. Peyragudes and Hautacam will advise us on the answers to that question. . .
Stage 16 highlights:
This being France, did the Marquis de Sade have a hand in designing that finish straight – summit finishes are tough enough with having to pedal up a house roof?
Finish up a house roof
And what about those crowds? I miss that madness; having to lock the doors in case, ‘Crazies’ hopped aboard the back seats when you got stalled in traffic and keeping the windows shut to avoid getting drowned in water – or beer, if you were lucky.
You need the fans!
I digress. This stage is perhaps best summed up by the ‘double take’ which Bardet did as McNulty dragged the infernal train past the Frenchman like a non-stop Japanese Bullet express passing a pig iron laden Mid-West steam freight train. The stage win but no ‘knock out’ blow to Vingegaard from Pog then?
Stage win for Pog, but no time on Vin
After the work his team had done for him and having seen how Hamlet, sorry, Jonas was riding, the Slovenian wanted to come away with a solid result rather than risk it all and come away with second on the stage – which according to Lance is ‘nothing’ – or worse. And if any one disagreed with what I said the other week that this is a two horse race then today put that to rest as Geraint Thomas dropped two minutes plus. Men of the day, apart from the Pog & Vingegaard, Dynamic Duo?
Time lost for Thomas
Another Dynamic Duo, UAE men Bjerg & McNulty who maintained that fearsome tempo for Pog over a tough ‘shark’s tooth’ stage profile. Winners then? Pog, UAE and Vingegaard, who despite being isolated by UAE matched Pog, blow for blow.
Bardet: Still there
And yes, a battling Bardet who moved up from ninth to sixth, a podium is impossible but sixth in le Tour isn’t so shabby. Losers? Whilst Geraint made it clear he’ll be third in Gay Paris – Hautacam willing – it was a, ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’ [you youngsters need to Google that one] for INEOS with Yates dropping three places from sixth to ninth and l’Alpe d’Huez hero Pidcock slumping from 10th to 15th @ 32:23. But Pidcock is only 22 years-of-age and if his head stays in place then it’s hard to say how far he can go in this sport. Unusually, Jumbo-Visma were uncharacteristically weak today; it’s just a good job that Vingegaard is so damn strong as even Wout dropped off the pace on this hard, hard day.
Stage 17 highlights:
The race winning moment? When Jonas Vingegaard crossed the line, surely? No. It was that moment when, after Pog dropped it on the descent, JV waited for the Slovenian. What it really said was; ‘No problem Tadej, a couple of seconds won’t make any difference, I’m going to win this stage and this Tour.’
‘No problem Tadej
But in reality, the Dane demonstrated yesterday that whilst Pog may be able to beat him in a sprint, he was every bit as strong and was riding conservatively whilst today, he ‘went for it.’ Today was Darwinian selection, the strongest prevailing – Vingegaard confirming that he’s the strongest man in the race and grabbed the polka dot jersey, in case there was any doubt about who the best climber in the race was; Pogačar confirmed his second position on GC; the remarkable Wout Van Aert third on the stage, reinforcing that green outfit he was wearing; ‘Old Guard,’ Geraint Thomas fourth on the stage and completing the GC podium.
Solo win for Vin
A bitter/sweet day for France as Gaudu moved up to fourth whilst Bardet dropped two places to eighth, albeit Gaudu is a distant three minutes from the podium – and this race illustrated better than any words I can write that top 10 is one thing, the podium another and the top step yet another.
Quintana – The invisible man of the 2022 Tour
Quintana, a man who we once felt that it wasn’t ‘if,’ rather than ‘when’ he would win the Tour de France, dropped one place to fifth. A re-born Louis Meintjes moved up one step to sixth place – a huge result for Intermarché Wanty. And Aleksandr Vlasov had us wondering what he might have achieved if he hadn’t succumbed to Covid just before the Tour, moving up to seventh.
Top 10 for Vlasov
Tomorrow is for the break but in Saturday’s time test he has the potential to move even higher, if has anything left? Another man of the East, Alexey Lutsenko moved up to ninth, albeit at a yawning 20 minutes and Adam Yates continued with his slide down the standings to 10th overall. But how about the man who beat the time cut by a slender 15 seconds yesterday – Quick-Step’s Fabio Jabobsen? Chaperoned by Messrs, Lampaert, Cattaneo, Senechal and Honoré he made the cut by a much less traumatic four minutes today. The team will be expecting pay back on those Elysian Fields – or even perhaps tomorrow in Cahors; that’s if the Baroudeurs are brought to heel in time. . .
Stage 18 highlights:
And those Baroudeurs were indeed brought to heel – but only very late in the day, inside the red kite in fact; with one of the banditos being young Londoner, Fred Wright who’s been one of the men of this Tour for me.
Fred Wright was up there again
His attacking riding has been one of few hi-lites of a bland ‘un-Victorious’ Grande Boucle for the Bahrain squad – Matej Mohorič has been strangely quiet? Not so, Jumbo-Visma who were victorious again, and as well as grabbing yellow, green and polka dots, saved the race for the home nation with Christophe Laporte blasting clear of the peloton and over the breakaways to make sure that 2022 didn’t add to 1926 and 1999 – those forlorn years when a Frenchman didn’t win a stage in their home race.
A french stage win, but he’s a Jumbo man
The Dutch team have taken the big 29 years-old man from La Seyne-sur-Mer down on the Mediterranean and ‘dipped him in the waters’ as a convert to a new faith, one which has better nutrition, equipment, training and aspirations than his previous Cofidis equipe. Always a strong rider but perhaps best known as Nacer Bouhanni’s lead-out man in the past, this year he’s moved up a level – a stage in Paris-Nice and podiums in the GP E3 and Gent-Wevelgem with today underlining his arrival. Apparently Wout gave Laporte, ‘the nod’ that it was the Frenchman’s day – the big fella didn’t need told twice.
Philipsen in good sprinting form
Second was Alpecin’s Jasper Philipsen who was looking good in the finalé as a sprinteur who copes with altitude gain better than the other fast twitch guys – but like everyone else was distanced by Laporte’s last kilometre nitro dump.
It was all a bit much for Laport
And third was a man who I had actually forgotten was in the race, DSM’s Italian Alberto Dainese who’s pretty quick but blows hot and cold – he won a Giro stage but apart from that and today, fifth has been his best finish of the season. On the subject of fifth places, the incorrigible Pogačar grabbed fifth in the melee – no ‘head down’ disappointment for the Slovenian just his usual joy of racing.
Is the battle over for Tadej Pogačar?
Going back to Mohorič and thinking about Pogačar, did they do too much, too hard, too early in 2022 to be in peak form for this race? After this edition of the Tour there will be a lot of meetings around drawing boards. Meanwhile we still have tomorrow’s time test, whilst the top four are pretty much cast in stone, the man who could potentially move up from seventh to fifth is Vlasov, if he can find 35 seconds then he can hop over Quintana and Meintjes.
The Jumbo-Visma team on a winning streak – next the TT
The winner will be?
Much depends upon how wasted the riders are after a savagely fast and aggressive Tour. And of course there’s the weather, temperatures can rise or fall, as can winds – and rain can blight some riders’ effort but spare others. Ganna isn’t World Time Trial Champion for nothing but in my book seems to have dropped a little power along with his weight. Vingegaard has the yellow jersey on his back and will fly whilst Bissigger was favourite for Stage One in Copenhagen but dropped it twice – he’ll be out to prove a point. And then there’s Wout. . .
Stage 19 highlights:
There are the specialists, then there are the GC guys – and then then there’s, ‘The Green Monster,’ Wout. Baroudeur, sprinter, climber and ‘chronoman’ of some style – smooth on his machine, line perfect on the corners, he brings a tear of joy to the eye of an old time tester like me.
A monster ride from Van Aert
And I did get some of it right, Ganna wasn’t perhaps the Ganna of the last few years, Hamlet flew – and even took time to flirt with the current trend towards gravel riding – and Wout was Wout. But Swiss specialist, Bissigger had more bad luck, a bike change condemning him to 58th place @ 4:52 some four kph and more slower than Wout. Contrast that with young Brit, Fred Wright who’s been getting stronger as the race goes on; only caught in the last kilometre yesterday and eighth today – again best of his team.
Not the top Ganna
His riding has been one of the few positives for the Bahrain Victorious team in this Tour. And those bikes; remember the days when you stripped the handlebar tape down to the brake levers, took off the inside ring – but left the front mech. on as a ‘chain guide’ – took the dust caps off the hubs and squirted some Teflon lube on the ball bearings – and that was your TT special? Wind tunnels? Those were just for jet fighters. Gearing? ‘Back in the day,’ 56 x 13 was a mega gear, now the ratio of choice for many is 58 x 11 with some going 60 teeth plus.
No thing of beauty
And whilst the new generation TT rigs may be radical, elegant they are not; the recent trend to big clearances atop the front and rear forks to stop the airflow ‘choking’ is perhaps one of the most unattractive features. And Pog’s Colnago with the ultra-low seat stays and ‘square’ bottle ‘filling in’ above the bracket is no thing of beauty.
The low neck line for Pog
Clothing has moved on so much too, no longer is a silk jersey ‘special,’ with the cut of Pog’s and the EF riders speedsuits way off their necklines – I’d be interested to hear the science behind that. And on the subject of EF – those pink wheels, as we say in Flanders, Dudes; ‘nee, nee, nee!’
The top four held firm but Aleks Vlasov gave BORA a little joy, moving up to fifth whilst Quintana dropped to sixth and – shock, horror – Bardet moved up one place after a time trial to seventh, Meintjes dropped two slots to eighth but still a great finish for Intermarché Wanty whilst Lutsenko and Yates stayed ninth and tenth – with Yates @25 minutes. . . Well, just those Elysian Fields to go. . .
Stage 20 highlights:
‘Enough is as good as feast,’ was the Jumbo Visma mantra for the day – six stage wins and the three major classifications will do nicely, thank you.
The dominant Jumbo-Visma finish together
The team rode the closing metres line a breast, giving the photogs golden opportunities. And despite social media chat that a breakaway would succeed today, it never looked remotely possible with Alpecin’s Jasper Philipsen a country mile clear in the desperate charge for the line.
Philipsen by a bike length
Philipsen gets over the hills with less stress than the other fast twitch guys and his freshness contrasted with the tiredness of the other flyers. Eighth placed Ewan wasn’t happy with third finisher, Kristoff feeling he was impeded – but Philipsen was so far ahead it’s highly unlikely that the Australian would have beaten the Belgian.
Stage 21 highlights:
That’s it then, with just my ‘Oscars’ to dole out. . .
# Men of the Tour?
· Vingegaard and WVA: go without saying, of course.
· Geraint Thomas: ‘mea culpa,’ hands up, I didn’t rate the man before this race but he proved me very wrong.
Fred Wright: ‘up there’ again today, in 10th place – CHAPEAU!
·Tom Pidcock: the youngest ever winner on l’Alpe, how far can he go?
Vingegaard and Van Aert – What more can you say?
# Team of the race?
· Jumbo-Visma goes without saying – however, they also take the worst jersey award, narrowly pipping EF.
· Israel-Premier Tech, few would have predicted two cracking stage wins for them – CHAPEAU!
Yes, Jumbo-Visma, but Israel-Premier Tech punched above their expected weight
# Best Stages?
· The three in stages Denmark where the crowds were phenomenal and Stage 18 to Hautacam where Jumbo and Vingegaard under lined their superiority.
Denmark was a big success in more ways than one
# Damp Squib?
· That bridge in Denmark.
A bridge too far on stage 2
# Bicycle faux pas of the race?
· EF pink time test wheels – Jeez!
And the crocs?
# ‘Adios’ awards.
· Piano stages.
· Peter Sagan as a force to reckon with.
· Phil Gil.
· ‘Crumbs’ for the ProTeams.
Adios Philippe Gilbert
# And for 2023 we look forward to:
· Pog’s new pre-Tour race programme.
· The return of Egan Bernal?
· A TTT?
· And, with dread – the EF strip and bike paint job. . .
Come back Egan
# Thank you for reading; now, how long ‘til the Vuelta? #
Vuelta a España next
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