The Tour de France departed Copenhague for Paris on July 1. This, the 109th Edition of the Tour, not only featured a start in Denmark, but a Danish winner, a Belgian who dominated, and a tremendous display of athleticism and sportsmanship that just so happened to end on the same day as Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift started.
It was an enthralling year, but it really boiled down to just a few dramas in the end. Who would win in the duel between two-time former winner Tadej Pogacar and last year’s runner-up Jonas Vingegaard? And just how dominant can Wout van Aert be?
Who Takes Yellow?
At the start of this year’s tour, last year’s top two were poised to battle it out in the mountains. Pogacar didn’t take the Yellow Jersey until Stage 6, and the battle between Pogacar and Vingegaard even broke the heart of Kämna on Stage 7, who was caught by their sprint up the hill in the last hundred meters of the stage.
But it was Stage 11 that will be part of this Tour’s definition for years to come. Vingegaard and fellow Jumbo Visma teammate Primoz Roglic continued to attack Pogacar one after the other after the other. Pogacar countered every attack until he faded on the day’s final climb, when Vingegaard took the stage and the Yellow Jersey, and he never looked back.
On Stage 16 Pogacar made more attempts to ride Vingegaard off his back wheel. But couldn’t lose Vingegaard, while up ahead Hugo Houle became only the second ever Canadian to win a Tour de France stage.
Stage 18 would be the final battle between Vingegaard and Pogacar, but when Vingegaard almost went down on the final descent and Pogacar actually did, albeit briefly, Vingegaard waited for his rival to come back to him and they basically finished together. The lead for Vingegaard was too large for Pogacar to overcome in just the single Time Trial that remained before the Champs Elysees.
It’s Wout’s World!
I wrote last year, during my recap, about “Wout’s Wild Ride” heading into and during a successful 2021 Tour de France. It was apparently just a warm-up.
He started this year’s Tour with three straight second place finishes, finally getting to the line first on Stage 4. He followed up that with two more victories, Stage 8 and 20, and won the Green Jersey, the points classification, with a record 480 points. That’s three more points than the previous record holder Peter Sagan’s 477 in 2018.
He was also a large domestique, or helper, to team leader and Yellow Jersey winner Vingegaard during the entire race. And he almost crashed twice when the Tour returned to the cobblestones in Stage 5. It was such a dominating performance, that while he didn’t win the overall Yellow Jersey, his name will be synonymous with this year’s Tour for years to come.
It was great to see another former winner of the Tour, Geraint Thomas, finish a strong third to complete the podium. As an American, it was great to see Neilson Powless fight for a virtual Yellow Jersey early in the race and finish 13th, close to a Top 10 and proof enough that he’s going to stay near the sharp end of the peloton for a while. Sepp Kuss’ 18th place finish, Brandon McNulty’s 20th, and Matteo Jorgenson’s 21st all make for an interesting future for Americans in the Grand Tour’s future peletons.
France had two top 10 finishers with David Gaudu’s 4th place and Romain Bardet’s 7th, and as a show of team dominance, aside from Vingegaard’s Yellow Jersey and van Aert’s Green, Jumbo Visma’s Christophe Laporte delivered France their only stage win in this year’s Tour on Stage 19.
All in all, it was another exciting year. And unlike previous years, there’s even more. On July 24, the day the Tour de France finished in Paris, the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift rolled off. Starting with the first of eight stages, the women’s peloton will ride around France through July 31, culminating with a sprint to the top of La Super Planche des Belles Filles. (It’s not the easiest thing to find on your dial, but it’s a fun watch if you can find it.)
So, until next year “Vive le tour!”