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TOUR’22 BREAKDOWN: Time Trials Key to Victory

Tour Takeaways: The announcement of the Tour de France route is like Christmas morning and the opening of presents – What will it bring in 2022? Spencer Martin gives us his ‘TOUR BREAKDOWN’ plus who and what to watch for in next year’s Grande Boucle.

– This article is an excerpt from the Beyond the Peloton newsletter. Sign up here for full access. –

2022 Tour de France Route

The route for the 2022 Tour de France was revealed this week to much fanfare and pundits pouring over the available details of each stage in an effort to forecast how the race will play out. Details like the inclusion of the famous Alpe d’Huez summit finish and the presence of a cobblestone stage have dominated the conversation, but something to keep in mind is just how little the route reveal actually tells us about how the race will play out on the road. The route is a great guide, but things rarely play out as expected and seemingly benign stages can explode the race, but it is important to stress that it is the riders, not the route who makes the race.

Having said that, the route teases what should be a great race, with the action concentrated almost exclusively in the mountainous Eastern and Southern parts of the country and forgoes the long, flat stages we tend to see in the Western portion of the country. And after the opening three stages in Denmark, one of which is a time trial which will by definition create time gaps, the route offers interesting and challenging terrain outside of a handful of traditional flat sprint stages.

tdf22 map

This is a fantastic route that should serve up a great race, but the most important factor is the final start list and health of the top contenders, which we won’t truly know until the eve of the race.

2022 Course Breakdown
Stage 1: Copenhagen > Copenhagen (13km): ITT
Stage 2: Roskilde > Nyborg (199km): Flat
Stage 3: Vieje > Sonderborg (182 km): Flat
Rest Day- July 5th: Lille
Stage 4: Dunkirk > Calais (172km): Flat/Rolling Hills
Stage 5: Lille > Wallers-Arenberg (155km): Cobbles
Stage 6: Binche > Longwy (220km): Hilly
Stage 7: Tomblaine > La Super Planche des Belles Filles (176km): Uphill/Medium Mountain
Stage 8: Dole > Lausanne (184km): Hilly/Medium Mountain Stage
Stage 9: Aigle > Châtel (183km): Hilly/Medium Mountain Stage
Rest Day – July 11: Morzine
Stage 10: Morzine > Mégève (148km): Hilly/Medium Mountain Stage
Stage 11: Albertville > Col du Granon (149km): Mountain Summit Finish
Stage 12: Briançon> Alpe d’Huez (166km): Mountain Summit Finish
Stage 13: Bourg d’Oisans > Saint-Etienne (193km): Flat
Stage 14: Saint-Etienne > Mende (195km): Hilly
Stage 15: Rodez > Carcassonne (200km): Flat
July 18: Carcassonne rest day
Stage 16: Carcassonne > Foix (179km): Mountains
Stage 17: Saint-Gaudens > Peyragudes (130km): Mountain Summit Finish
Stage 18: Lourdes > Hautacam (143km): Mountain Summit Finish
Stage 19: Castelnau-Magnoac > Cahors (189km): Flat
Stage 20: Lacapelle-Marivale > Rocamadour (40km): ITT
Stage 21: Paris > Paris (112 km): Flat

Breakdown by Stage Type:
8 Mountain Stages
5 Summit Finishes
6 Flat Stage
4 Hilly Stages
2 Individual Time Trials
53-kilometers
1 Cobbled Stage
19.4-kilometers of cobblestones

Arenberg Porte du Hainaut - France - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Lars Boom (Ned-Team Belkin-Pro Cyclingteam) - Vincenzo Nibali (Ita-Astana Pro Team) - Fabian Cancellara (Zwi-Trek Factory Racing Team) pictured during stage - 5 of the 101th Tour de Fance 2014 - from Ypres (Ieper- Belgium)- Arenberg Porte du Hainaut - PDV/VK/Cor Vos © 2014
Cobbles in the Tour?

Initial Thoughts
The first few stages make this look like another fairly traditional route from ASO (the organizer), with a short opening time trial and a sprint-backed first week, which stands in stark contrast to the other two grand tours. But, after stage 4, things immediately get interesting, with a stage over the cobblestones over Northern France leading into a challenging few days in the Vosges, then onto the Alps and the Pyrenees, and a brutal 40km time trial wrapping up the competitive racing on stage 20. La Vuelta has essentially eliminated the old-school bunch sprint stage, the Tour has seemed to embrace them in comparison.

tdf21st13
Will Mark Cavendish be there?

Short But Sweet

With only two stages over 200-kilometers, there is a clear shift in this Tour against the traditional, long stages that used to populate the race. In theory, the long, grueling stages can add stress to the peloton’s legs, which creates more exciting racing situations in the back half of the race, but I’m not sold on this in practice. What we have seen in recent years is that the most exciting action in grand tours occurs over shorter, more explosive stages, which allow the riders to race all-out for the entire stage. For example, Stage 17, a mountain stage at only 130-kilometers, will be absolutely brutal since attacks that go at the start line could potentially hold off the chasers all the way to the finish line, which could goad riders down in the GC into throwing down long-range attacks.

Flat and windy start in Denmark

Beware of the Crosswinds & Crashes

The 2022 edition features six truly flat stages and 2-3 rolling stages, which means if the majority come down to a bunch sprint, it would equal the six we had in 2021. However, these stages also have the potential to serve up major GC chaos in the form of crosswinds and the usual crashes. There is a theory that an opening time trial somehow ‘calms’ the riders and produces less aggressive, and therefore, fewer crashes, in the first week, since the number of potential race leaders will be narrowed significantly by the time trial. But this has never completely added up for me since the vast majority of crashes stem from aggressive racing and positioning from the sprinters and overall contenders, who will still continue this style whether a day in the race lead is up for grabs or not.

The race starts in Denmark, which while featuring almost exclusively flat terrain, serves up endless coastal roads that have the potential to create crosswinds and echelons. Stage 2 even serves up an 18-kilometer bridge over the sea that could absolutely shatter the field if the winds pick up.

The most famous summit finish – Alp d’Huez

Heavy on the Summit Finishes

The 2021 edition was light on mountain summit finishes, but next year’s Tour swings in the opposite direction and serves up five stages with finishes on difficult summits. While in theory, this produces exciting racing, like eating sweets for dinner, there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to summit finishes. Oftentimes, the presence of a summit finish encourages contenders to sit tight until they hit the final few kilometers of the final climb. Any time gained is likely to be minimal and it can turn the race into a time bonus contest, which is what we’ve seen at recent grand tours with a plethora of uphill finishes. And remember, the most action we saw at the 2021 Tour happened during a non-summit finish Stage 8, while the summit finishes in the Pyrenees in the 3rd-week (17 & 18) were reduced sprints between the contenders.

tdf21st11
Summit finish sprints

Time Trials Will Be The Key to Victory

tour21 tt chart

Recent years have seen a massive decrease in the amount of solo time trial kilometers. While the 2022 Tour holds true to this trend, it does feature the third most ITT kilometers in the past seven years. However, time trials tend to have a goldfish-esque property where they grow or shrink in importance depending on their constraints. For example, the 2008 Tour featured a mammoth 82kms of time trials but was won by Carlos Sastre, who couldn’t time trial his way out of a paper bag, while the 2020 Tour de France, which only had 36kms of time trials, was essentially decided by the stage 20 time trial. In 2022, I fully expect the major contenders to be mostly in lockstep through the mountain stages and for the extremely difficult 40km TT looming on stage 20 to decide the race for the overall.

sastre
Carlos Sastre couldn’t time trial, but…

The Riders Will Make the Race

It is interesting and enlightening to see the Tour’s race route, but, at the end of the day, the amount of actual information into how the race will play out is limited, since ultimately, it will come down to how the event is raced. The eventual winner will have to be a world-class time trialist who can also take time in the mountains, ride cobblestones with confidence while avoiding crosswind and mass crash traps on the flat stages. This might sound extremely selective, but the current crop of top riders all essentially possess these traits. Primož Roglič might struggle to avoid crashes on the flats and Egan Bernal is far from a time trial ace, but these weaknesses, relative to their strengths, aren’t disqualifying.

Contenders
Current Betting Odds on BET MGM:
Tadej Pogačar +125
Primož Roglič +150
Jonas Vingegaard +600
Egan Bernal +1400
Richard Carapaz +2000
Enric Mas +25000
João Almeida +3300

dmt
Top favorite – Pogačar

If we look at the current betting odds, the Slovenian duo of Pogačar and Roglič are the heavy favorites at +125 and +150. These are very short odds with nearly an entire year until the race actually starts, but frankly, it is incredibly difficult to imagine any other rider winning the race, and the odds will be far shorter on the eve of the Tour. I’m surprised to see Jonas Vingegaard as the third favorite since he has only raced two grand tours in his entire career and hasn’t proven that he can replicate his success at the 2021 Tour and will most likely have to race in support of Roglič. However, his talent can’t be denied and if Roglič suffers more misfortune, he is one of the only riders with the physical skills to match Pogačar. The only other two riders in the same GC zip code as Pogačar, Roglič and Vingegaard are Egan Bernal and João Almeida. While neither is likely to win the race, Almeida could present decent value at +3300, but is on the same team as Pogačar, so it is hard to imagine him having any ability to chase the win at the Tour. Bernal doesn’t have the time trial or climbing ability of Pogačar, but can’t be counted completely out since he has already won a Tour and would be the biggest beneficiary of any misfortune to the Slovenian duo. Carapaz finished third in 2021 and is a great tactical racer, but it is difficult to imagine him contending due to his inferior time trialing and sustained climbing relative to the others.

tdf21st21
Who will be on the Paris podium in 2022?


# Spencer Martin is the author of the cycling-analysis newsletter Beyond the Peloton that breaks down the nuances of each race and answers big picture questions surrounding team and rider performance. Sign up now to get full access to all the available content and race breakdowns. #

 

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