It’s time for the last rest day of the Tour de France 2022 and the riders have well deserved it. There were brutal mountain stages, there was extreme heat, there were riders leaving the race with COVID and with injuries.
Before racing resumes for the final week of action, let’s take a look back at the performances that defined “week two” of the 2022 Tour.
Jonas Vingaard’s stage 11 raid
What better place to start than one of the most memorable stages in recent Tour history?
We knew going into the race that Jumbo-Visma had the strongest team on the start list and we saw that fully on stage 11. The team was on the attack at the start of the stage, separating a group of GC favorites from the peloton and peppery overall leader Tadej Pogačar on the Col du Galibier.
Pogačar had to respond to no less than eight Jumbo-Visma attacks and perform four moves himself. He seemed to have handled everything well, until it was clear that he wasn’t.
With 5km to go on the final climb of the day – the Col du Granon – it looked like Jumbo-Visma had overworked himself trying to drop Pogačar. Jonas Vingaard was isolated in the front six, while Pogačar had a teammate (Rafał Majka) and Ineos Grenadiers also had two runners (Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates). But then Vingeard attacked and everything changed.
As the Dane stalked away, Pogačar paid off his earlier efforts and cracked in a way we’ve never seen from him before. Vingegaard took his first Tour de France stage victory almost three minutes ahead of Pogačar, took yellow and, with that, put himself in the driver’s seat to win the race overall. Extraordinary.
Jumbo-Visma’s dominance on Stage 11 was just one such display from the Dutch team. There were many impressive moments throughout the race, including on stage 12 where every team rider was at the front of the pack, before Wout van Aert – in the leader’s green points classification no less – shreds the peloton on Alpe d’Huez.
Pogačar has attacked a lot since losing yellow, but so far Vingegaard and Jumbo-Visma have proven themselves up to the task. It remains to be seen whether this will remain the case until the third week, given that stage 15 was a disaster for the team.
Primož Roglič left the race early in the day to recover from injuries he suffered earlier in the race. Then Steven Kruijswijk crashed with a suspected broken collarbone, and Tiesj Benoot and Vingaard also hit the deck. The last week will be interesting.
Victory for Tom Pidcock in Alpe d’Huez
It’s no secret that Tom Pidcock is a remarkable talent; a world-class racer on the road, on a mountain bike and on a cyclocross bike. But until this week, Pidcock had somehow only managed one pro win on the road. What better way to double your score than winning on cycling’s most iconic climb.
The magic started long before this last ascent. Pidcock’s descent to enter the first break was something to seeand he was just as impressive on subsequent descents.
And then when the break hit Alpe d’Huez, Pidcock took the lead and continued. He never seemed to really struggle despite the steep incline and ended up winning the stage by almost a minute.
Winning at Alpe d’Huez would be a defining moment for any rider, but to do so in your first Tour de France, at just 22, is a testament to this man’s incredible talent. Many more victories are sure to come for Pidcock in the years to come.
The welcome return of Chris Froome
As Pidcock rode to a stunning victory on Stage 12, another Briton also rode a formidable run from the breakaway. Chris Froome, 15 years eldest from Pidcock, was unable to keep up the pace as his young compatriot set off to Alpe d’Huez, but with a hard fight Froome managed to hold on to third place of the step.
Froome was all smiles as he crossed the finish line, and fair enough. It’s been a long and brutally difficult road back since his horrific accident during the reconnaissance of the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné. And to be frank, he’s a far cry from the rider who won four Tours. But on Stage 12 we finally got to see Froome leading a bike race again, and that was a wonderful thing.
Third on the stage is easily Froome’s best performance since his crash in June 2019, and indeed his best place in a bike race since his second in Stage 20 ITT at the 2018 Tour de France.
We sports fans love a good comeback story and Froome’s run into the Stage 12 break was the very definition of that. Hopefully there’s more to come from the 37-year-old.
The great victory of Michael Matthews against Mende
Michael Matthews is a wonderful cyclist. It has a very fast finish, especially on difficult and hilly days; he climbs better than most sprinters; and it has a sneaky time trial, especially in the prologues. But for much of his career he was forced to live in the shadow of truly remarkable athletes. runners like Peter Sagan, Julian Alaphilippe, Tadej Pogačar and Wout van Aert.
Matthews entered Stage 14 of the Tour with two second-place finishes in this year’s race, and a total of four such finishes since his last stage win in 2017. On a hot, hilly day in Mende, Matthews s went on a break and then attacked this solo break with 50km to go. He was joined by a handful of others, but on the steep final climb it was Matthews who went off on his own.
Matthews’ drive over those final miles was the very definition of courage. He was caught by Alberto Bettiol, crashed, but then fought back before finally riding alone once more. As you crossed the line, you could see how much victory meant to the Aussie – it was the result of a mountain of hard work, not just that day, but over the past few weeks.
Jasper Philipsen finally takes his stage win
Speaking of riders who repeatedly came close before winning a stage in this year’s Tour, what about Jasper Philipsen? In the 2021 Tour, Philipsen finished on the podium on five separate stages without a win. In Stage 3 of this year’s race he finished third, then a day later won the peloton sprint for second place… but celebrated vigorously thinking he had won.
The Belgian would have to wait almost two weeks for his next real opportunity, and when he did, he took advantage of it. On a scorching Sunday in Carcassonne, Philipsen edged out Wout van Aert and Mads Pedersen to claim a well-deserved maiden Tour victory.
He had to work hard for that too. Philipsen has a reputation as a fearless sprinter who will get into any position necessary to win, and he had to do just that to win on Sunday. Take a look at his trajectory in the final 300m of Stage 15 (see below) – he’s getting pretty close to those barriers.
It was all worth it in the end. Philipsen finally has the victory he was looking for.
What other performances did you enjoy last week?