Tour de France: Vingegaard ends Pogacar domination, plus what to expect next year

Felix Lowe

25 July 2022

No three-peat for Tadej Pogacar

Slovenia’s two-time champion entered his third Tour as overwhelming favourite but despite taking the yellow jersey early after the first of back-to-back stage wins in the opening week, Tadej Pogacar was eventually worn down by his rival Jonas Vingegaard.

Runner-up to Pogacar in his debut Tour last year by over five minutes, Vingegaard turned the tables on the 23-year-old after a dominant display in the Alps at the start of the second week. The 25-year-old Dane then extended his lead in the Pyrenees before coming home in Paris with a 2’43” lead over a rider many felt could not be beaten.

Pogacar would have become only the second rider in history, after the great Eddy Merckx, to win three Tours in his first three appearances. But a combination of over-confidence, a weakened UAE Team Emirates, a super-strong opponent in Vingegaard, and the collective fire power of the Dane’s Jumbo-Visma team, combined to end the Slovenian’s reign at the top.

The outgoing champion nevertheless kept up his record of winning at least three stages in each of his four Grand Tours to date – and by taking second place he picked up another white jersey as the best young rider of the Tour, a classification he will still qualify for in 2023.

Jumbo-Visma domination

The Tour was arguably won in stage 11 when a remarkable team performance by Jumbo-Visma on the iconic Col du Galibier isolated Pogacar and pre-empted the killer blow from Vingegaard on the final ascent of the Col du Granon.

With attacks coming from as far out as 70km from the finish, Pogacar was forced to close down a series of moves from Jumbo-Visma co-leader Primoz Roglic – the man he beat in dramatic circumstances in the final time trial of the 2020 Tour to seize the yellow jersey on the penultimate day.

Pogacar’s fellow Slovenian had crashed badly in the opening week on the cobblestone stage in northern France, but was still deemed a significant threat when he went up the road. Taking the bait, Pogacar closed down his repeated moves and looked to push on himself despite being outnumbered.

Having worn down Pogacar, Jumbo-Visma put their domestiques to work ahead of the final climb of the Granon, where Vingegaard cracked his rival to take both a maiden Tour stage win and the famous maillot jaune he would hold all the way to Paris.

Team Jumbo-Visma won a total of six stages over the course of the three weeks, with Belgian sensation Wout van Aert swooping to a hat-trick of wins plus the green jersey after enjoying a brief stint in yellow in the opening week. The team’s French rider Christophe Laporte also ended the host nation’s long wait for a stage win two days from the finish.

Danish delight

It was fitting that a Tour starting in Copenhagen culminated with a Danish rider standing atop the final podium in Paris. In addition to his his yellow jersey, Vingegaard secured the polka dot climbers’ jersey with his second win of the race, at Hautacam in the Pyrenees.

Further Danish joy came for Mads Pedersen and Magnus Cort. After starring in breakaways for the first four days of the race – to the delight of the home fans in Denmark – Cort followed his early stint in the polka dot jersey with a well taken stage win in the ski resort of Megeve.

Pedersen became the third Danish rider to taste success on the race with an accomplished breakaway victory two days later in stage 13 to Saint-Etienne. Only Belgium – with six wins in total (for Yves Lampaert, sprinter Jasper Philipsen twice and Wout van Aert three times) – won more stages than Denmark, with the established cycling powers of Spain and Italy leaving empty-handed.

Can Pogacar bounce back in 2023?

The two-time champion never gave up and kept searching for a way of toppling Vingegaard, who matched his every move in the Pyrenees before breaking him – with the help of indefatigable teammate Van Aert – on the last major climb of the race at Hautacam. 

After the final time trial to Rocamadour, Pogacar admitted that he had a “big motivation” to win back the yellow jersey next year. “After these three weeks a lot has been learned and we [UAE Team Emirates] can improve a lot, so I’m looking forward to new challenges.”

With two teammates forced to withdraw because of Covid, and two others abandoning through illness or injury, Pogacar certainly did not enjoy the same kind of support as his rival had deep into the race.

While it remains to be seen what kind of course the organisers will come up with for 2023, Pogacar will hope for reinforcements to help take him back to the top. The young buck may also change his attacking style in favour of a more conservative approach, opting to conserve energy instead of sprinting for early stage wins at every opportunity possible.

It will be fascinating for all cycling fans to see how things differ heading into a Tour where Vingegaard is the man to watch and Pogacar the underdog needing to bounce back. The 110th edition of the Tour will start in the Basque city of Bilbao on Saturday July 1, 2023.

Felix Lowe

25 July 2022

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