Tour de France Stage 21 Preview

The Champs-Elysées await, the prestige sprint finish that has encouraged several sprinters to stay in the race. It’s a day of triumph and melancholy, joy for the winner but a wistful air as the race comes to an end, but now there’s no time for the post-Tour blues as the Tour de France Femmes starts this afternoon and we’ve got an extra week of racing to savour.

Rocamadour n’ roll: of all the stages ridden in advance for the previews, this one was the most rewarding, if only for the subtle differences of the course where roads that looked straight on the map twisted more; climbs that looked tame in the roadbook had more bite than suggested and all with a sybaritic twist: just stop pedalling and a land of plenty awaited, the kind of place where lunches are long and going into the red means opening a bottle of Malbec.

Come the day and even the time trial stage was interesting to watch. With little action expected on the general classification the stage still supplied suspense for the winner. Filippo Ganna blasted Mikel Bjerg out of the hotseat and the Italian had a long spell in the lead until Wout van Aert came in and beat him by 42 seconds, over a second quicker per kilometre. Van Aert looked to have the stage sewn up then Tadej Pogačar beat him to the first time check; then Jonas Vingegaard was quicker still. Pogačar began to slow a touch. Perhaps he wanted to start first to test Vingegaard but the Slovenian still finished the stage third. There seemed to be no stopping Vingegaard with the hilly part of the course to come, the bit where you’d expect him to out-ride Van Aert. But he was slowing, just. and on the descent where he was already down on his team mate he almost lost control and took it easier after, conceding 19s to Van Aert on the line and a few seconds down to a celebration when the line was in sight.

The Route: a indoor start from the Défense Arena, an sports stadium and then it’s out to the Yveslines department west of Paris, and roads used by Paris-Nice including a passage by Versailles, before the usual procession through the suburbs and into the city then the Champs Elysées, closed for the day and a privilege normally reserved for visiting heads of state. It’s eight times across the line to hear the bell and then the sprint.

The Finish: there’s “new” finish again. For years the race would have a chicane-style bend from the Rue de Rivoli onto the Champs-Elysées and then the finish line was soon after. Last year the finish was placed 300m further along the Champs and it’s the same again now. It means a rider doesn’t have to come through the corner so close to the front but they’ll have to rattle over the cobbles for longer.

The Contenders: given the way this Tour has gone, a breakaway can always make it but as ever the route suits the sprinters’ teams as they can keep a close eye on the breakaway and there are no surprises on the course. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) has arguably been the best sprinter in the race, but he’s been beaten to the line by others who got the jump on him. Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step) is better in a flat sprint but he’s minus Michael Mørkøv. Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) has been omitted from the picks of late because of the climbs but flat route suits. Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) really needs a win but desperation isn’t much help to him and the team today, his experience will count for more. Alberto Dainese (DSM) has had a stealthy Tour to put it kindly but third place in Cahors shows he’s resilient, something Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) knows all about too.

Of course there’s Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) as well.

Fabio Jakobsen, Jasper Philipsen
Caleb Ewan, WvA, Groenewegen
Dainese, Kristoff, Ganna

TV: the Tour de France Femmes sets off with a circuit race on the Champs-Elysées and it’s on between 1.30pm CEST and 3.30pm CEST, expect a theme of pioneers that pays tribute to those who have opened the road before.

The men get going at 4.30pm and the finish is due for 7.30pm CEST.

116 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 21 Preview”

  1. Thank you Inrng, it was the most enjoyable tour for me to watch so far and reading this blog was an integral part of the fun!
    My favorite moment was to see how the green jersey was pulling for the yellow jersey, helping him to win the polka dot jersey while dropping the white jersey. And WvA crying at the end of the TT.

  2. Tēnā koe, Inner Ring, from New Zealand. As ever, you’ve added a wonderful dimension to this pinnacle of our sport. From time to time you downplay the effort required to put together a blog of this quality and volume, but I am certain it is significant. I truly hope it brings you great joy, as it does us, your readers.

    • Tēnā koe twice, to double the comments identifying as from Godzone country way down south. Another fine GC’s worth of commentary to add to your palmares, and very much appreciated near and far.
      There’s always something hidden to make sure we’re all paying attention – Ganna receiving a single star duly noted and a reminder of the late escapers of old, Jelle Nijdam perhaps one of the best exponents of the tactic in recent decades. Ganna I think would need to get away a little earlier than Nijdam, who from memory absconded around the flamme rouge for several great stage wins in the mid/late 1980s.

  3. I really appreciate all the work you put into this site. year after year.
    I remember when you and steep were the only way I could follow cycling.
    Keep up the good work and thanks for this little respite from the world.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Rich, insightful and a salve for all of that matter-of-fact, re-hashed reportage found elsewhere. Long may you reign (and, more importantly, write). Thank you Inner Ring, thank you indeed.

      • Indeed, thank you so much Inner Ring. I’ve been enjoying your posts since this blog’s inception they are next level, the best bar none! They have greatly contributed to my love of nerdy background knowledge and pleasure watching cycling events and reading cycling books. Thanks also to your regular’s for all their comments.

  4. Thank you for the wonderful recaps and previews. It seems to me that this year’s posts are even a notch above the always sterling content. Or maybe I’ve enjoyed the tour more this year.

    I would have loved for Wout to have gotten both the green and polka dot jerseys, but both he and Jonas did what they had to do that day.

    The time spread between the top 10 seems way bigger than normal. I’d love to know how this year’s tour compares with other tours in the modern era (I won’t define it since our host will know exactly what to do).

    The photo of Ganna above is stunning!

    • Yes a truly wonderful shot! Hats off to the photographer. The lunch scene is swimming in character too, something those of us in the UK can only imagine. A great tour and as ever a great blog, many many thanks

  5. Question – would WvA have been as dominant riding for another team. I feel the role he is given on JV has owed his talents to be exposed more. Without the need for him to support a GC leader we would not have been given the spectial. Chapo to the JV DS for this.

    • Just as much of not more so? He’s been a support rider AND pursued his green/TT/stage ambitions, most other teams he’d be the sole star? Freakishly talented, whatever he’s having for breakfast it’s incredible to watch – that domineering quality Sagan had but delivering wins across such a broad spectrum. The best rider in the world, as noted by his team leader!

  6. I have been reading your posts since you started and I have always learned so much from them. As all the rules of cycling go and this new, crazy, exciting version replaces it you too will have to up your game. I am more than sure you will. Thanks for all your hard work.

    • Not sure yet. It’s an enjoyable way to get immersed in the race but if I can recon the key stages of the Giro, Tour etc, it’s not usually possible for the Vuelta and don’t want to be phoning in a preview having only looked at the roadbook and Google Earth, which is like trying to review a bike by reading the components list and the frame geometry, or rating a restaurant by reading the menu.

      • Hang on? You recon every stage you preview??

        I knew you’d ridden widely and could remember most mountain roads in your previews plus occasionally phoned a friend for extra details —- but I didn’t know you recon every stage??

        How do you do this? There hasn’t been sponsorship here for a while? Do you have a separate full time job in cycling to make it possible? How do you balance this with a job? I guess you could be retired?

        I’m blown away. This takes my respect and thanks to you to a whole new level… I had thought being organised enough to write and post daily was impressive already… but the scale of this operation? I’m a bit confused how it’s humanly possible without multiple people?

        Have you ever been approached by GCN, Guardian, Telegraph, Cycling Pod, Cycling News to link up? It seems unfair you’re not being showered in silver and gold for writing all this?

        • Not every stage is ridden, there’s no need to revisit the Galibier or the Planche des Belles Filles and many other familiar places but if there are new roads that are likely to impact the race and inform previews, then where possible it’s worth checking them out, and often not every kilometre of a stage, just the second half etc.

          Plus it all makes from some good riding, the tricky parts of a bike race are the more interesting rides, there’s not much inclination to recon a flat stage and it probably wouldn’t be informative. It’s been enjoyable to explore the areas around, say, Rocamadour, Lausanne or try the Granon ahead of this year’s Tour; this year’s Giro hardly had any new roads that called out to be explored although did go and recon the Genova stage… only for them to announce the course change a few days after. Anyway it’s just done in spare time.

          Keep meaning to look into some kind of tip jar as some reader support would help but time spent on this backroom admin is time taken up by previews etc, will look into it.

          • If it means you can cover La Vuelta, please do so.
            The GTs are infinitely more enjoyable when you can do the daily previews, and the added bits and bobs that go with it.
            I’ve learned so much about Europe over these past few years from reading this blog.

          • I’m sure that if you needed help with the backroom stuff, plenty of the grateful readers of this blog would volunteer in a heartbeat to help out, myself included. Some might have some experience in that kind of stuff as well.

            The easiest tip jar technology might be a simple PayPal donate button.

  7. What an exciting and unpredictable tour, my enjoyment enhanced as usual by the IR previews and many wise complementary remarks from IR’s well-informed readers. A sad but predictable end is that the local (French) media are casting the usual aspersions on the non-French dominant team. Would they if that team was French?

    It would be great to see a breakaway succeed today. Do the four weary top-flight sprinter’s teams (BEX, QST, Alpecin & Lotto-Soudal) have enough energy to bring back a well-constituted group of ten or so riders?

    And finally, after IR’s thousands of words, a trivial correction: it’s Yvelines with one S.

    • “ Would they if that team was French?”

      Watching that press conference made me wonder exactly the same thing. Are they asking Gaudu how he managed to come in fourth when he wasn’t expected to do nearly that well? If Laporte hadn’t crashed and had won the opening time trial, would that press conference have been filled with innuendo?

      • I’ve been trying to avoid further commenting, but how could anyone put side to side Gaudu’s result with a couple or (half a dozen) more eyebrow-raising things we’ve been treated to during this TDF? Especially after yesterday’s ITT?

        FDJ is having a good year – frankly not *that* better than their steady standard – and Gaudu had a good TDF, sure, but – for Bassons’ sake! – what are we even talking about?

        His performance is totally consistent with his past ones, since being Tour de l’Avenir winner in 2016, and his gap with Pogacar or Vingegaard is coherent with what’s been seen before from him.
        Beforehand, one can expect him to be precisely up there, just as you could expect Vlasov or Mas (slightly older than him, by the way) both with a similar profile, or if anything a bit less promising if compared during their corresponding “U23” years.
        Who are you surprised to see below him in GC? Quintana, Bardet, Lutsenko… Meintjes? … Adam Yates?!? You could perhaps say Vlasov (if you only focussed on this season), but then you should also take into account how Vlasov’s 2022 Tour actually went “on the ground”. If anything, it’s surprising that Gaudu was kept nearly 6 minutes back by 36 years old Thomas.

        Please note that I’m no defender at all of the “French theory” (not in cycling, at least ^___^) about the French being generally soooo clean, even less so in FDJ case. They’re quite up in team standing, I’d say, and we’ve been seeing sort of mountain trains from them to keep Gaudu in contention and so. Pff, whatever.
        Yet, oh, come on, appreciations like the above about Gaudu make one lose faith… in cycling spectators. It really becomes a night where all cows are black.

    • The annual question put to the winner is part of the routine now, and their reply examined word for word, and for the tone too. It’s a question that has to be asked but no answer can ever be perfect.

      And Laporte is getting some innuendo. Alaphilippe has done too.

      • If you look at the doping cases involving the winners of the last 30 years worth of Tours, a huge portion of them either proved to be dirty, or were tainted by drug cases. Frankly, given the recent history of the sport, the French press wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t ask those kinds of questions.

    • “A sad but predictable end is that the local (French) media are casting the usual aspersions on the non-French dominant team. Would they if that team was French? ”

      Kate Wagner, the journalist who asked Vingegaard this question, is all but French and doesn’t work for French media.
      But go on with some nationalist prejudice if it fits your narrative.

  8. Again, thanks to Mr Ring for the reviews and previews of the tour – chapeau!
    WvA wins the TT, then gets tetchy with a journalist when the inevitable question comes up about his performance – WvA does n’t want to answer, Vingegaard gives it the ol’ used-car salesman answer, “you can trust us”. That a rider is better then others is not questioned, but 3 weeks of out of the ordinary performances is bound to raise eyebrows. (it didn’t help that amomgst the journalists was Bjarne Riis’s fellow “persona non grata” from Denmark, Michael Rasmussen) One day we might find out that it really was rounder wheels, higher altitude camps, marginal gains or whole grain pasta, but until then I, and others will wonder.
    “Paris Cycling club” sounds very upmarket, but an infusion of funds to French cycling might bring about the long awaited French TdF revival. The B&B Hotels Team Attack though will be missed!

    • The other tired used-car saleman’s line wheeled out again yesterday (and unconvincing since Armstrong, if not before) “we’ve been tested thousands of times”.

  9. Just one more add of thanks. I can imagine all the hard work that goes into this blog plus your undoubted knowledge of the sport. Best blog and cycling journalist bar none. Thank you very much.

  10. Good work InRng as ever.
    The tour was won by the mgmt of JV whose transfer and hiring and talent spotting has been spectacular.
    They nurtured Rog and fought for wva and won then re-signed him on big money but not UAE money. They somehow unearthed Jonas and nurtured Kuss. Laporte was a stunning signing, or at least they have made him stunning.

    For UAE they got Pog but I am not convinced by Soler and Bennett – panic signings in my view.
    Ineos now want to win GTs and Classics so the hiring strategy lacks focus. Yates and Martinez and Thomas will have to support Bernal if they want to win a GT in the next two years and we can only hope Bernal comes back to health well.

    Chapeau to the JV brains trust.

    • If you think Pidcock, Tulett, Plapp or Hayter can’t win GTs then it is the coaching strategy that is wrong, not the recruitment.

  11. What a wonderful feast of toad race cycling this tour has been.

    A storied tour. Some beautiful memories –

    The crowds in Denmark. Magnus Cort celebrating going into the mountains jersey. Yves Lampaert’s reaction to his win “I told myself, Yves, just trust your tyres” in that rasping Flemish accent. Redemption for Jacobsen and Groenewegen. Simon “contract” Clarke winning a stage. Hugo Houle winning a stage in grand style commemorating his brother. Michael Mathew’s “masterpiece” as inrng expertly named it. Mathews saying he was thinking about his wife and child in the hardest part of the climb – interesting that – its been an emotional tour. A good bye to Phil.Phil.Phil.


    The “stage for the ages”. A great new champion in Jonas Vingegaard.

    I guess the only thing that could have made it more involving would have been Pogačar being able to drop Vingegaard on a climb to put the yellow jersey in jeopardy. But I have to give credit to Jumbo Visma. This has been a consummate victory.

    Personally, I enjoyed seeing Geraint Thomas’ cheekbones looking sharp again.

    Congratulations and thanks to all the riders who have completed this historic tour.

    And a special appreciation is due to inrng – this blog is like a wonderful restaurant tucked away on a back street. The cuisine is exceptional, the clientele discreet, the host ever gracious and we can all afford the bill.

    Vive Le Tour!

    • The final credit to our gracious host was, in his own words, ‘a masterpiece’. A true feast as always. Thank you, Monsieur Inrng.

      • Surely Thomas wasn’t in great shape either. Or Van Aert.
        Vingegaard gave them all a good lesson in timetrialling, a discipline they don’t know really much about.
        One has to wonder why those guys even bother to drag around their 10 to 15 kgs heavier bodies.
        I loved this Tour, but I’d rather unsee yesterday. And I think I’ll try and avoid further comments because the healthier attitude is probably to put it to sleep along with other infamous episodes, say, Lugano 1998, to name a rider nobody would accuse me I’m biased against.
        If this sort of things goes on the same way much longer or repeatedly, we’ll be again crossing from the 90s to the 00s (note that the same placing by the same athlete, Pantani, in the final ITT at the 1998 TDF, while surely borderline, had a wholly different meaning, in terms of distorsion of physical reality).
        It’s a pity because things albeit extreme and insistent had been kept more or less within the limits of what could be dealt with through a robust but reasonable suspension of disbelief. Sadly, not Vingegaard’s ITT performance yesterday.
        Let’s move on. The TDF stays surely the best in 7 years at least and easily a granted top-5 since the Armstrong era started, with serious options to fight for a podium spot, not even excluding the top one.

      • Also, there are significant amounts of climbing, which is not to Ganna’s advantage (though he would have flattened them if he was in form).

        On the one hand, Ganna did blow everyone out of water (surprised that Mollema was the next on the stage listing); on the other, he was also behind his own teammate Thomas.

        • If climbing is actually significant in an ITT can be inferred by final avg. speeds, and that compares with other ITTs etc. Stage number factors in, length and so on, all quite obvious.
          Not the flattest or fastest ever (Milan is flatter, often even slightly downhill), but over 50 km/h fast and flat enough, indeed, esp. so late jn the GT. No need to say in aero era how any marginal km/h correlates with pure watts (not w/kg).

          Or just have a look at riders’ weight in the top 20 and sort the odd one out (yet, this might be more tricky because on this sort of last day ITT lighter riders who are further up in GC might be more motivated to push harder, or less tired etc.)

          Uff, ‘nough said. No reason to worry much yet: if the wheel turns smoothly around, the sport can live with it, let’s just try to enjoy the show – but let also leave the bilharzia-style story aside -____- (speaking in more general terms here, not re: hoh).

  12. This blog makes me look forward to the mornings during the tour. I pair it with a coffee and a smile, best way to start the day

  13. As with everyone, huge thank you for all the previews.

    Now the Tour comes to an end I only have one single question I’m desperate for a journalist to ask:

    **Did Jumbo Visma know Vingegaard was stronger than Roglic? And if so by how much and did they purposefully hide this at the Dauphine with a view TDF tactics?**

    • I think it was widely appreciated that V was stronger, certainly reflected in the betting markets for a few weeks or even months before the off, I didn’t believe it and paid the price, another lesson learnt. This blog truly makes cycling whole, an essential source, yet also a recreation a very tough thing to achieve consistently but done year after year, chapeau!

      • That’s surely based on the previous year though? Or Roglic’s rocky start to the year.

        Vingegaard has/had almost been awol for most of the year – we and the betting markets only saw the Dauphine form, and definitely suspected V was stronger but it wasn’t clear – only JV know how much stronger and whether they intentionally hid it slightly coming into the Tour.

  14. Thanks once again INRNG for your insights and re-caps! It has become a tradition reading your wrap-ups and preview before and after every stage. And this year has been no exception!

    Appreciate the work you put into this site, keep up the good work🙌🏼


    • It’s only natural for readers to thank You.
      The standards you set with no paywall, no big media conglomerate, no sponsors, no axe to grind and no shame in showing a huge amount of cultural insight that enriches all our understanding.

      Once again, I’m sure there are other ways than ‘merch’ for us to show appreciation, even if you set it up for the benefit of some other cause than your own…

      And forgive my presumption in making direct reply to your humble answer.

    • I’d gladly pay real money for a yearly subscription- there’s only so many INRING socks I can buy!
      Thanks again for your efforts.

      • My socks are very much near the end of their life and would like to replace them and add a cap or jersey too if INRNG kit were still available at Prendas.

        Would happily dip my hand in my pocket too.

        Thanks again for the top drawer writing.

  15. Chapeau The Inner Ring! Superb coverage of the tour and a joy to read your insights each and every day. Thank you so much.

  16. On INRNG – we really have no right to expect such excellent, thoughtful and diligent commentary. A total treasure. Long live INRNG.

    On the Standard Doping Question – I sympathize with WvA frustration, but I think we need to accept, and even embrace (?), that it is part of the cycling narrative and there is no baseline to go back to. There will not be a time when we have finally got our testing so dailed-in, or the winners answers are so convincing that we will not ask the question. Ultimately, it is one of the things that makes the sport so compelling.

    On this generation of riders – I think we are in a new golden era of cycling. So many talented riders and the emergence of new competitive dynamics. Such fun!!

    • Yes I think that is a fair summary.
      I like to believe in the best of people and enjoy the sport.
      This time last year we thought we were in for Pogacar domination for the next 7 years or more, now it’s all very much up in the air again.
      Which is a good thing.
      Other teams / riders have to find a way of combatting Jumbo-Visma now, as they had to do so when Team Sky were so powerful.
      I’d like to see one of the non-Jumbo sprinters win today, for a change lol.

    • Very well put regarding the standard doping question.” I tried to say something similar above. We look back and wonder why so many in the media ignored the obvious during a couple of decades of out-of-control peds use, but now we want journalists to back off.

    • Looking at Pogacar results on, he has been very strong for many years. Winning 2 TDF in a row seems a natural progression.
      Vingegaard has only been strong the last 2 years, with a questionable jump up in performance. So I suspect Jonas has gotten some quasi-legal help for 2 years.
      Has Jumbo found something new besides ketones? If they have I hope it’s all legal.

      • There’s a risk when looking at results without context. Vingegaard was found to have a big engine a long time ago by those around him, he could take a Strava KoM but he was a terrible racer, very introverted which made leadership awkward and above all struck by nerves before a race to the point where he’d shake with fear and his family wondered why he was putting himself through it by starting a race. Now none of this proves or disproves doping but it is part of the story as to why he has had a slow start.

        It kept happening when he turned pro too. Readers with a keen memory might remember him taking the overall lead in the Tour de Pologne after a stage win ahead of Jai Hindley in the Tatry mountains, but he was so stressed by the expectation and pressure he couldn’t sleep properly, made several mistakes in the final stage and finished way down on GC, with Pavel Sivakov – who grew up in a cycling family and is used to leading races and dealing with pressure – taking the win. It’s also why he’s been on the phone to his partner after many stages, it’s become part of his support routine.

        • This is a great post INRNG, you’re keeping it lit till Sunday sundown!!

          It seems to be a regular occurrence in recent years that some cycling fans with a limited knowledge of the deeper reaches of the sport have jumped to conclusions about doping with each new winner – unable to accept that they do not have the knowledge of each riders junior results and route to the professional ranks that they think they do (beyond a quick look on pro cycling stats).

          A comment like Cycling Nut’s says more about his/her own arrogance, thinking they know more than they do, than Vingegaard.

          It was the same for Pogacar, Roglic, even Froome after he beat Bilharzia.

          Of course cycling has had doping, still has doping and always will, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been giant advances since the Armstrong days and more importantly we need to wait till genuine evidence comes to light before we jump to conclusions.

          Thank you for giving a polite and informative answer INRNG.

        • This might explain something I’d been wondering about last year, namely why Jumbo Visma left Vingegaard alone so often in the mountains when he was running high in the GC. I’d thought it was either because he was over performing and any result was a bonus, or because he was extremely confident and didn’t want or need team mates. Now I’m thinking he didn’t want the extra pressure of being a protected rider, and last year’s performance has helped him grow into the role.

  17. I’m not sure why but Michael Matthew’s stage win might be my favourite win of this Tour?

    I love that climb into Mende, it feels properly Vuelta-esq. Plus how both times I’ve seen it there’s been a great stage and GC battle around ten minutes apart.

    Was happy for Matthew’s to because I like him but it was more the way he beat Bettiol.

    Granon was obviously the best stage, one for the ages, but it did feel like the writing was on the wall from that moment onwards and as that became more clear throughout the race it’s taken a little bit of shine off after – even if it’s the one that will be written into cycling folklore from here on out.

    Made me think of recent GT climbing history that it will be remembered alongside – (sorry all tdf as that’s what came to mind first, didn’t go as far back as Bahamontes and others)

    Ventoux – Bobet
    Izoard – Bartali Coppi
    Angel of the Mountains (Aix Les Bains?)
    Puy De Dome – Anquetil and Merckx photo
    Toumalet 69 – Merckx takes eight mins
    Col De Mente – Ocana’s crash
    Pra Loup – Thevenet breaks Merckx
    Alpe D’Huez – Lemond v Hinault

    Granon – Vingegaard cracks Pog
    (hopefully the first of many great battles)
    Planche BF 20 – Pog arrives
    Finestre 18 – Froome’s 80km attack
    Formigal – Contador’s turn around
    Ventoux 13 – Froome/Quintana/Contador
    Galibier/S11 – Schleck attacks, Evans counter
    Verbier – Contador ends Armstrong
    Peyresourde – Contador/Rasmussen sprints
    Morzine – Landis supercharged ghost ride
    Hautacam – Armstrong beats the best
    Alpe D’Huez/Les Deus Alps – Pantani’s two years
    Les Arcs – Indurain cracks
    La Plagne – Roche counters Delgado

  18. First time commenting, just wanted to thank you for providing a fantastic read before each day’s stage, it’s helped me enjoy the race I love even more.. Chapeau!

  19. Regarding doping – “There will not be a time when we have finally got our testing so dailed-in, or the winners answers are so convincing that we will not ask the question. Ultimately, it is one of the things that makes the sport so compelling.”
    If this is at all representative of the thoughts of most of the commenters here I should have stopped reading this blog a long time ago. Whether or not someone cheated-to-win IMHO doesn’t make the sport compelling, it makes it a joke.

    • Hey Larry, I think what is meant here is that sans evidence, whether the mass of fans believe a team is doping or not really says more about our own beliefs and possible biases than what the team is actually doing. Once it veers into the realm of belief, our brain does have an incredible ability to twist facts to suit our own narrative.

      Because of that, no team can even provide a satisfying answer to those doping questions because what ever words they said and whatever evidence they provide can always be twisted. The best a team can do is try to be as transparent as possible (though that often doesn’t help when people have already marked you public enemy No.1 before the facts) and accept the fact that there would always be doubters.

      At the end of the day, only athlete and possibly their team knows what they have done. If you are clean, it doesn’t quite matter what others say.

      • I get what you’re saying, but I don’t agree that “no team can even provide a satisfying answer to those doping questions because what ever words they said and whatever evidence they provide can always be twisted.” There is evidence that cannot be twisted, and it’s the non-answer answers that we have heard so often in the past that are the opposite of the transparency that you rightly laud as the only ideal solution. The fact is that most teams are not particularly transparent, and it still amazes me how many people are involved in the sport who had both documented doping pasts and who have never come clean and pledged to be forces for good.

        I was recently reading back through some of the earliest posts, from 2010 and 2011, and there are a lot of them focused on Contador as he denied and dodged and weaseled out of admitting the obvious truth. And now I can’t watch the Tour without seeing him riding along on a motorcycle with not even a wink or a nod about his past. And it’s are from just Contador, there are dozens and dozens of such cases. Most teams have staff with similar backgrounds, as do many of our favorite cycling commentators, but except in rare cases it’s never acknowledged and mostly forgotten. I am confident that things are vastly better than they were in the 1990s and the 2000s, but too many of the stalwarts of that drug-obsessed era are still around, still opaque, still unrepentant, still not giving any answers of any kind.

        • Doesn’t everyone who watches the Tour on TV and knows who Alberto Contador is also know everything (there is to know for anyone who wasn’t involved) about his doping case and the sanction he received?
          I find it quite pointless to add an asterisk so to speak every time someone with a doping past appears on TV or is mentioned somewhere.

          I don’t think demanding public contrition leads us to a clean sport. Neither does shutting out anyone with a doping sentence or a questionable past out of the sport. Doping knowhow isn’t limited to them, the willingness to enter the gray area and to go beyond it doesn’t vanish from the peloton or the team bosses, DSs. coaches and doctors with the removal of a few individuals.

          • You kind of missed my point, and you also stated a couple of things that I think are flatly false. I am certain that many current fans only know Contador as a great Spanish rider and multiple GT winner, and not one of the group of utterly disgraced recent champions who were stripped of GT titles. The sport went through a period where virtually all of the top riders were proven to be doping despite years of denials, excuses, and lawsuits, as well as silence/suppression from the rest of the peloton and the powers that be within the sport. Journalists and fans who asked questions were attacked and bullied. The result: it almost destroyed the sport. It did drive away a number of fans and potential riders.

            Some of those who denied/lied/remained silent, or who litigated and appealed their cases endlessly, ended up getting banned and were driven from the sport. But some used those exact techniques to successfully remain a vital part of the sport. The technique of making excuses, of denial, of saying “I get tested all the time, why are you picking on me” has worked very well for more than a few. And the implicit message that a fan or a young rider gets is that doping in cycling is a grey area, that sometimes it’s wrong but sometimes it’s not so bad, and after all it’s part of the game.

            Regarding contrition – a key component in the sentencing of criminals, at least in the US, is admission of guilt and contrition. People who don’t own their crime are more likely to repeat, and giving a pass to unrepentant dopers sends a message to others that there’s no upside to admitting guilt and coming clean. Meanwhile, former riders and support staff who have admitted to doping and been very frank about it have been key forces in cleaning up the sport. Meanwhile there are those who took the opposite tack (denial) who remain in the sport and who continue to be associated with suspicious results.

            The idea that removing questionable DSs, coaches, bosses and doctors is ineffective is belied inside and outside cycling. The only way the mafia was brought down in the US was by nailing the bosses and capos. The fish rots from the head. Would you be OK if Ferrari and Fuentes and their ilk could still be openly involved in cycling, since shutting them out clearly didn’t eliminate all doping from the sport, so why bother?

            The Washington Post has a motto, “Democracy dies in darkness.” I think the motto of our sport could be “Cycling dies in silence.”

          • I’m kind of still missing the point I missed. But thank you for the history lesson!
            And yes, I’m all for silence and bringing back Ferrari and Fuentes 🙂

          • KevinK – it pains me to write this as we agree usually on nothing but your post nicely countered the mentality I was criticizing. When cheats still make-a-living from the sport they defiled, what does it say about the sport, especially when/if they never really admitted or apologized for cheating their competitors and the fans of a fair contest? The result is every time there’s an “incredible” result people don’t find it…well…credible. LeTour 2022, with the record speeds and certain riders defying a drop in performance as the race wore on in (what was claimed to be) record heat….seems incredible. How can they do it?
            MPCC was a good attempt but how many teams are left in it these days? MPCC bans the use of things teams who aren’t members admit to using to win, so it’s the old “cycling at 2 speeds” all over again. It all might be “incredible” as the TV pundits like to say, but they might want to rethink the use of that description.

          • If you look hard enough you can see in this Tour if not red flags then little warning signs. Puffs of smoke maybe. What we’re told about the advent of industrialised doping around the turn of the 80’s/90’s by people who were there is that the speed of racing increased rapidly and much larger riders were able to climb at speeds usually for only scrawny specialist climbers. So this being the fastest Tour on record with a Belgian classics specialist mowing down hill after hill, day after day might raise an eyebrow or two. The flipside of that is that Van Aert could just be a Merckx-esque freak and the general speed a result of an ongoing improvement in all aspects of equipment and preparation. As well as a short route. Something else I have noticed that I hadn’t raised in here for fear of being shot down is Bahrain. They spent 18-24 months at the front of every race. They’d become one of the big teams. Mohoric was everywhere. The team and Mohoric in particular have been barely visible for the whole 3 weeks. This of course following the Police showing an interest in what they were taking into their hotels.

          • @RichardS – What I wrote to be about this particular TdF. It’s more something that has bugged me for a while, and reading old Inner Ring posts from 2010 and 2011 while seeing him featured so prominently at this TdF (and knowing he’s running his own team now) pushed me to comment. But likewise it’s not just about him, either, he’s just an exemplar.

            Regarding puffs of smoke, I agree about Bahrain. I hate the way in this sport one is often left waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for the other shoe to drop, sometimes until it’s forgotten about. The lack of transparency in these cases is corrosive. I don’t think I agree about the increased speeds being in and of itself suspicious. That could be down to pervasive improvements in aerodynamics and rolling resistance, changes in strategy (not giving breaks huge time gaps while the peloton lollygag around for 5 hours before getting down to business, etc.), and so on.

            @Larry – it will surely surprise you to learn that I don’t argue with you because we have nothing in common. I suspect if we spent time together you’d discover we have widespread agreement on many things cycling and racing. What I react to from you is your tendency to aggressively try to shut down discussions you don’t like, and the way you sometimes misread a comment and then irritably spam this blog making the same mistaken point again and again. Put simply, sometimes you get things wrong, but you don’t admit it and instead make it personal.

          • C.f. The GCN/ Eurosport commentators repeatedly telling us how we must surely all agree how great it is to see Froome back at the front of a race. No, we don’t all agree. Admire his tenacity after such an injury… maybe. But gushing over him as if he never had an adverse test result, like the banned Petacchi or Ulissi?

    • For ‘compelling’ I read ‘interesting’.
      The talk on doping can get very tiresome but can be very interesting and educational too, and it’s a part of the sport and it’s history as we know well enough.

    • Despite many years’ work by the greatest minds, we still have no way to disprove a negative.
      If you think Tour stage speeds are higher, you should see the price of bikes!!

      Seriously, the only thing with sport of any kind is the here-and-now. No point in second-guessing and cynicism. You could give up watching. You could keep your impressions at the pre-opinion stage.
      Riders have better kit. Bike frames and drivetrain are more mechanically suited to the job. All that wind tunnel time and rolling resistance studies optimises aero ( which becomes the most significant factor at the speeds they now average ). The riders themselves are far better trained for aerobic performance over long periods, with recovery being far more understood, along with nutrition and conditioning right through the whole year.
      Either spare us, or come up with proof.

  20. After 10 years, another “Huge thank you” to our host may sound procedural, but still I say this again with utter sincerity.

    I also want to add that our host never looked to profit from controversies in cycling. In some of the difficult moments for our sports in the last few years, our host’s only interest is pursuit of truth and providing a balanced view.

    Lastly, with regarding to paid content. I understand Mr(s) Ring doesn’t want the content exclusive. But O guess it doesn’t hurt to set up a patron page where those of us that are so intended could make a contribution at our own discretion.

  21. Another Tour another sincere expression of thanks for your efforts Inrng. This has been an enjoyable Tour with an outstanding performance by my fellow countryman in third place, no chance of beating the two in front but a determination to do as much as possible. Tidy.
    Once again, many thanks.

  22. Inner Ring, great job as always! This site is a great companion each year as the Tour progresses.

    One nitpick: the department is Yvelines (not Yveslines).

  23. Another first time commenter, long time reader here.

    Thanks so much to Inrng for the effort and quality of the tour previews and the site in general. Your insights, and obvious passion for the sport we all love shines through. It really adds to my tour enjoyment.

  24. I found your blog a year ago one week into the Tour and in the middle of an acute mental health crisis. For the next two weeks I sat on my sofa watching ITV4 and reading your wonderful blog. A whole new world was opening up in front of me, with names and jargon I barely understood. I’ve watched and read again this year, but in a much better state of mind. I’m nowhere near fluent yet, like most of your commentators, but do now feel I’m starting to understand this amazing spectacle. It’s due in no small part to you. Thank you for opening cycling up to me. As I say, I’m no expert, but the sight of JV v Pog duelling it out on the mountains felt timeless to me. Thank you again. You are the blog to beat. Anthony

  25. For those who want to accuse Vingegaard of doping, I would encourage you to google Occam’s Razor. Compare Armstrong, a practiced liar and bully, to Vingegaard, an awkward and shy kid who obviously feels very uncomfortable in the limelight. You’re telling me that he is going to choose to lie publicly and risk being a massive villain to all of those Danes chanting his name? Why? Because of his massive ego that makes him strive to be a superstar instead of a Kuss-like superdomestique? I think the much more reasonable answer is that he’s another physical freak like Pogi, and it just took time and an AMAZING team behind him to put him in that position. Oh, and about the TT, his descending was terrific throughout the tour and much of the TT was highly technical. I think there’s a damn good reason that WVA was crying after the TT, and it was all about Vingegaard.

    • I mean, Ulrich was pretty shy and awkward… not sure you’re argument holds… although I to would be surprised if he doped.

      • I think things are significantly different now in terms of what to expect if you get caught. I can’t imagine Vingegaard taking that risk. I’m sure there are still plenty of riders who would, of course…

        • The insinuation is that Jumbo (and others) have found/used something that’s not technically illegal (as it’s not a banned substance) but the effects are pretty obvious when the TdF was the fastest ever, climbing records broken and cyclists seemingly never tiring. Vingegaard is not taking a risk by taking something that’s still legal. (just think of Tramadol that was so popular before it got banned)

          • Similar innuendo was raised about Quickstep, Sky, UAE, Bahrain… maybe even Wanty, basicaly anyone who’s on fire at the moment. The TdF was ridden fast, but perhaps the route enabled that – it was pretty benign I’d say. Anyway, they are supposed to be perceived as innocent until proven guilty, aren’t they?

            Jumbo clearly doas something better than others – perhaps some marginal gains combined, perhaps part of it is based on the pure talent of J-V’s squad and the stellar recruitment. WvA is an phenomenon, clearly. As is Vingegaard. Perhaps they are “cheating” (as you explain the insinuation goes) or even literaly cheating, but for the time being and based on what we know they are simply better then their foes, except Pogacar, Pidcock, maybe Thomas and some others who were able to match them throughout the Tour.

            For me, the fact Bardet did that well – although he focused on the Giro and the TdF was an afterthough – marks the GC field as rather weak, which could explain the huge time differences in top10. Ineos claim Thomas was stronger than when he won the race, perhaps he was, but he won it in the first place because of lack of top class opponents, clearly. Now there are two top class riders who distanced Thomas easily – as would peak Froome, Quintana or Contador probably do.

          • Fra – I don’t mean to be critical but this years Top10 spread was actually pretty standard?

            To have two riders on the level we did is far more competitive than the Tour has been for most of the last ten years – when really only 2019 and 2011 have had more than two riders vying for the win. Plus it’s far more competitive than 2017 which was probably the nadir of competition in recent times?

            I’m struggling to see many years where the Top10 has been more competitive than 2022?

            I think the spread of minutes is a little misleading as they depend on route and how hard the winner is pushed, if you look below, a very uncompetitive year can be under10mins spread (17) and a very competitive year can be under ten mins (19) but I’ll will list times anyway, but more relevant is probably the names who were genuinely competing for the win…

            2022 – Vinny & Pog –
            Top10: 24mins spread
            2021 – Pog –
            Top10: 18mins spread
            2020 – Pog & Roglic –
            Top10: 14mins spread
            2019 – Bernal & Thomas & Pinot & Alaphillippe –
            Top10: 7mins spread
            2018 – Thomas seemed at ease but Dumolin & Froome were in picture –
            Top10: 14mins spread
            2017 – Froome –
            Top10 9mins spread
            2016 – Froome –
            Top10 7mins spread
            2015 – Froome –
            Top10 17mins spread
            2014 – Nibali –
            Top10 21mins spread
            2013 – Froome –
            Top10 17mins spread

            Go back further and the Top10 spread is far wider because of route but even back to Armstrong era it ranges between 10mins-25mins and that spread doesn’t seem to have much bearing on which years were competitive and which years weren’t.

            The pattern to me looks like:

            a) If you have two riders above everyone then the rider in 10th ends up further behind because the best two have pushed each other further.

            b) If you have a dominant rider there are two scenarios, either they show their strength and destroy the field increasing the top10 spread, or they manage their energy making the top10 spread appear closer than it actually was.

            c) Finally if you have no clear favourite (19) then everyone rides a little cagey and few have the power for more than a single knockout blow meaning the spread stays relatively competitive.

            Personally I think this was a very competitive year and the standard of riding was extremely high, a previous winner being 7mins back shows the level they were at and the jostling between Bardet, Quintana, Gaudu was more competitive than many years I’ve seen. Only Hindley and Bernal being present plus O Connor, Haig and Roglic not being injured would have made it more competitive but I struggle to see any of them troubling the Top 2.

          • Fascinating point about one dominant rider keeping the spread close. The height of the Sky train dominance basically strangled the race and kept the competitive racing to a minimum. This led to pretty tight time gaps that make it appear more competitive than it was.

          • good idea – I would also factor in GC rider’s seasonal goals– a few of those years the dominate rider was attempting multiple grand tour wins so I’d suspect they would back off to the bare minimum effort needed to secure the win.

    • Better than googling it, one should obtain a copy of Il nome della rosa and enjoy a period thriller based partly on the Ockham’s concept. 😉

  26. Late to the party as the Tour ended yesterday, but let me add my thanks for the past three weeks of previews and reviews! I agree that this year’s commentary reached another level!

  27. Thank you for the always fantastic read!

    What truely made this tour the best for me, in addition to the exciting racing, is the positive atmosphere, coming from the stories about sportsmanship and the friendliness of the rivalries and above all, how we could see the joy of the riders doing their sport. Your thoughtful reporting (and the fantastic commentators on the hungarian eurosport channel) made up the whole experience, sometimes even distracting from my responsibilities during working hours…

    On a different note, I haven’t really expected at the beginning of the year, but your reporting on the world tour relegation gave an interesting extra layer to the racing, it would be great to hear your thoughts on how this may had an influence on the intensity of the racing.

  28. This nonsense that the French press somehow only call out non-French riders makes you look small minded. My cycling memory extends to 1986 and in those 36 years how many winners have been clean, or even above suspicion?

    Lemond, Sastre, Evans?

    A brilliant edition, thanks for the blog and please
    The question needs to be asked and the answer is probably impossible, but ask it.

    Are we now clean? well the route is more human, the riders are faster and seem to peak younger, time will tell.

    • This is an interesting point.
      My limited knowledge has it like this:

      Drugs were used from almost the beginning, and probably more prevalent preEPO than even the most enlightened would think… it’s just sometimes they were used so poorly they negated any benefit so we give it a pass as they weren’t as strong as EPO…

      Post 86, I have always thought things changed dramatically in the early 90s with a little suspicion on a few like Roche turning to much heavier suspicion on all during the Indurain era including Big Mig himself.

      There after we know everyone absolutely doped until Sastre.

      Since then and specifically post2010, the biological passports have changed the nature of doping and whilst it still exists it’s less extreme and we’re able to have a little more faith in the winners, along with team supervised doping hopefully being a but different to the Armstrong era with the threat of sponsorship loss being real.

      Evans is an interesting one – I have always thought/assumed he was clean, and if so, look a his results on WIKI – he was regularly on Grand Tour podiums alongside dopers meaning he was likely the great cyclist of that era and we never knew. Or he doped – who knows!

  29. ★★★★☆ for this year’s tour for me.

    The minor qualifications for me are 1) a lack of apocalyptic weather to throw a spanner into everybody’s works, and 2) lack of cross-wind action. (I think van Aert himself called a supposedly cross-wind stage ‘boring’).
    It’s also not great having the green and yellow jerseys on the same team: imagine Froome having Sagan to call upon to rescue a sticky situation.
    ★★★★★for Inrng and the little community he’s built here.

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