The Moment The Tour de France Was Won

The winning moment? Everyone thinks it’s the time trial stage and that’s clearly an obvious point. But the whole point of a review is to look back with the benefit of hindsight and look for the signs. Sure it could be on the road to Bastogne in Liège one Sunday in April but that’s casting too wide. Instead we could see right from the start how Jonas Vingegaard wanted to wear Tadej Pogačar down, take Pike Bidea where he shook his head at Pogačar to say he wouldn’t do a turn and take him to the finish, see the Marie Blanque where Vingegaard took time. Remember the Joux-Plane where Vingegaard kept Pogačar’s attack in range? Or Le Bettex where he closed him down right away?

Gino Mäder’s death in the Tour de Suisse was a tragedy several times over, a promising rider, a seemingly banal accident, it left many questions about racing down long mountain passes for our entertainment. If we subscribe to the idea that a grand tour reflects its host nation, then going into the race there was plenty more to be sombre about. A spring of political protests had subsided but not the frustration behind them; riots were erupting in cities in response to the killing of a 17 year old by a policeman. Only all of that faded away, at least for those on the inside of July’s ivory Tour.

The Basque start helped things get off a festive start, scenic countryside and coastal views with a fervent public, thousands of ikurrina flags. The climb of Pike Bidea told us plenty, even if we didn’t know it at the time as Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar marked each other, Victor Lafay was up there and the Yates brothers rode away, with Adam getting the better of Simon for the stage win but the day also saw Richard Carapaz and Enric Mas crash out, orphaning their teams for the next three weeks. The next day saw Victor Lafay attack under the flamme route to thwart Wout van Aert’s quest for a stage win and with hindsight this would be the closest he’d get.

The stage from Dax to Nogaro was majestic for its tardiness, a day when nobody attacked at the start and a sprint on the Nogaro racing circuit where more crashed than in the streets of Bayonne and Bordeaux combined and Fabio Jakobsen’s crash probably denied us a sprint rivalry. Regardless of the venue each time Jasper Philipsen came up trumps thanks to help from Mathieu van der Poel who was less sprint train and more snow plough as he barged through the peloton. Philipsen quickly took a commanding lead in the points competition which he’d keep to Paris, the others seemed to be going for intermediate sprints just in case Philipsen.

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The Pyrenees came early this year and were a first course. Jai Hindley managed to infiltrate the big breakaway and duly got himself in the yellow jersey and what seemed like a headstart on the race for the third step of the podium on what was a brilliant day’s racing but with so many highlights since the day’s faded into background. If the Pyrenees were an entrée this didn’t stop Jonas Vingegaard from tucking in, he attacked on the Col de Marie Blanque, apparently this wasn’t part of the plan but he felt like testing his arch rival and over the pass he took half a minute and doubled this on the descent. Suddenly the story was Pogačar was short of form and the Tour was over.

The next day Jumbo-Visma tried to crack Pogačar again only he coped with all they could throw at him and on the final climb to Cambasque put in such a big attack that you wondered if there were skidmarks from his tires on the tarmac. Pogačar won the stage, took 28 seconds on Vingegaard and yesterday’s headlines were binned although this was the day Vingegaard took yellow.

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Limoges was a day of ups and downs for the sprinters, Mads Pedersen with the ups thanks to a climb to the finish line that gave him an advantage over the field but downs with Mark Cavendish crashing out, a banal fall in the peloton ended his Tour just the day after he’d been so close in Bordeaux and looked like a challenger for a win in Moulins and That Record. Steff Crass was also out of the race after a spectator stood in the road.

The Saint-Léonard to Puy de Dôme stage was dripping in history and nostalgia, they could have had the TV coverage in black and white. But for the peloton it was just another stage and a summit finish. The day’s breakaway formed quickly and it was allowed to get a big lead. Matteo Jorgenson made a long range solo move but was overhauled on the final climb by Michael Woods in a strange summit finish without the crowds, the allez! allez! audio soundtrack of July muted and without it you realise this sound is so essential to the experience of watching the Tour. Behind Pogačar and Vingegaard demonstrated how superior they were to the rest. If you can remember your Newton and F=ma then seeing these two accelerate so hard on the steep climb showed their abundance of force while the GC outsiders just had to stay seated and winch their way to the finish. For all the energy spent Pogačar gained a few more seconds.

The stage to Issoire was another highlight, attacks from the start including Jonas Vingegaard sliding into the breakaway with Pogačar following him and then hours of action before Pello Bilbao won.

After a sprint interlude in Moulins for Philipsen fourth win, we got another corker of a stage in the Beaujolais, hours of action as the break tried to form. It was the only stage where Mathieu van der Poel came out to play and his attack of the Col de la Croix Montmain dynamited the breakaway with Matteo Jorgenson and Thibaut Pinot chasing, only for Ion Izagirre to tow others across in what looked like a last pull for Guillaume Martin only he kept going and was away for a solo stage win in Belleville. The Grand Colombier saw a win for Michał Kwiatkowski and Tadej Pogačar taking more time on Jonas Vingegaard, closing into just nine seconds. This was as close as he’d get.

If the Pyrenees were lite this year, the Alps were full fat. The stage to Morzine started with a big crash before the first climb and once the race resumed, Romain Bardet would crash out. Jumbo-Visma chased the breakaway all day, this was their tactic throughout the race. There were no coups, no ambushes, instead they just kept applying pressure every day, using the whole team to ride hard and wear down their rivals UAE and the rest of the field too. UAE are a much improved team and the recruitment of Adam Yates made all the difference, he was there at moments in the race when Pogačar needed him. Take the Joux-Plane where Jumbo-Visma were out of riders and with a nod of the head Pogačar go Yates to take over the pace, then moments later attacked. Vingegaard couldn’t or wouldn’t respond but kept the gap close and as Pogačar kept looking back he could see he wasn’t away. The two ended up marking each other which allowed Carlos Rodriguez to close the gap. Pogačar tried attack Vingegaard again as they approached the Col de la Joux-Plane arch with its 8-5-2 second time bonuses. Launching with 500m to go he was blocked by a TV and press photo motorbike in his path, themselves unable to accelerate in the moment because of the crowd. They should have been well ahead but weren’t and the crowd spilling into the road was a compounding problem. It seemed heated in the moment but with hindsight didn’t alter the result but no matter the outcome, spectators and media alike shouldn’t interfere with the racing. Easy to type, harder to guarantee.

The danger is seeing the crowd as a bad thing. For the most part it’s fantastic and what separates out the Tour from every other race. Watch the Tour de Wallonie at the moment and it’s like you’ve muted the sound by accident, a silent movie instead of a roar. Only the Tour of Flanders gets close and that’s for one day. The problem is how to prevent the 0.0001% of fans who cross a line, literally sometimes as they step into the path of the riders. You can run as many ads on TV as you like but they’re preaching to the converted, it’s reaching the people who don’t think. Maybe some kind of viral video for social media could work, mocking the hunt for a selfie but even then you can’t reach everyone, and if you could, stop them from being carried away in the moment. Anyway Carlos Rodriguez won the stage, surging away just as the descent started and with Adam Yates unable to get him back; if Ineos had sent their A-team to the Giro then two stage wins was decent. And as much as Pogačar could attack, Vingegaard finished the day with a one second gain on GC.

Wout Poels won the next day and a score draw for Pogačar and Vingegaard but this time if they crossed the line together it was telling Pogačar barely had the jump on his rival, the Dane breezed across. Based on this alone Vingegaard got the nod for the 22.4km Combloux time trial but more a tie-breaker pick as the story so far was how the pair were inseparable. Only the Dane blew the doors off.

The chart here shows the average speed for each rider on Stage 16. Last rider Alexis Renard crashed at the start and finished sore, with what would be a broken ankle, averaging 31km/h. It’s important to note this chart is not a distribution of athletic ability in the peloton. For many riders this day was a second rest day, a 40 minute effort to get out of the way. Towards the right you can see the riders who were suited to the course, up for a maximal effort and going for it. The third last bar is Wout van Aert, four seconds quicker than Pello Bilbao. Then you can see Pogačar well clear of the field, then Vingegaard well clear of him, the pair were so far ahead of the rest yet here big gaps between them.

Vingegaard’s crushing time trial win brought out the annual doping discussions – we don’t get them at Paris-Nice or the Eneco Tour – but these are more case studies in epistemology. It’s also a Rohrschach test that often tell us more about accuser or defender than the substance of the matter. Vingegaard visibly took the descent fast bordering risky but this can contribute to explaining part of his speed but it is not proof of being clean. Similarly being faster is not proof of doping either. Finishing 99th or 101st isn’t proof of doping nor cleanliness either. But winning does invite all the questions and aspersions and we see to have this every July, it’s as much a part of the race as riding past sunflowers.

Jumbo-Visma want to imitate Team Sky in many ways and alas they copy the tendency to ride headlong into a media relations trap in July, despite it happening every year, despite flashing warnings signs marked “TRAP”. Still, in they go, and this time tried to dig themselves out by taking potshots at rival teams, as if accusing Groupama-FDJ of sinking a beer on a rest day is going to win the public over. So much of this can be avoided: get Christophe Laporte in front of a TV camera every day. Have Vingegaard filmed cycling around his second home in Annecy in June extolling the virtues of France. Obviously this neither proves or disproves anything, but the Tour is not a court of law, it’s about appealing to the crowds and building up a stock of sympathy for a waiting public who didn’t tune in for Vingegaard’s Dauphiné festival. Similar ideas to apply to other contenders next summer.

Pogačar socked it to everyone but Vingegaard in the time trial but as the first loser the crowd warmed to him. Once an unknown quantity whose disconcerting ease on the bike, like his attack on the Col de Romme in 2021, had seen him on the receiving end of suspicion (Matxin, Gianetti, even being Slovenian was a tell-tale sign for some), now he’d become Tadej Poulidar as the plucky loser.

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The Col de la Loze further boosted Pogačar’s stock of sympathy, and the Loze’s legend, as he cracked. Up ahead Felix Gall won the stage, attacking to take a solo win ahead of Simon Yates on a day when several top-10 riders on GC got away in the break. Gall was one of the revelations of the Tour, although he’d done so well in the Tour of the Alps that he was pulled from starting the Giro so he could target the Tour, and picked up a Tour de Suisse mountain stage win just riding away à la pédale. Ag2r Citroën were rightly proud of this with DS Julien Jurdie saying he’ll get another tattoo. But it’s the minimum the team should do given a decent budget €24 million, with no resources spent on house sprinter and riding their central event of the year. Vingegaard extended his lead but even he felt the finish, creeping over the line in Courchevel while Pogačar lost almost six minutes.

The stage to Bourg-en-Bresse saw the race leave the mountains and had sprint written all over it but the breakaway made it, a triumph in the moment for Kasper Asgreen but also a lesson that if riders do go up the road on a flat stage then maybe they can win so it’s worth a try. However the more rational angle is to try this in the third week of a grand tour. The following day to Poligny was probably the wildest of all stages with no downtime and a photofinish needed to separate Matej Mohorič and Kasper Agsreen.

Here it’s worth dwelling on just how good so many stages were. The course helped, terrain to encourage breakaways and shorter distances. This year’s course even had short transfers. Yes there were some sieste stages but these provide both the sprint and the recovery, on the stage to Nogaro UAE’s riders had a game to see who could have the lowest power output of the day which means the next day everyone’s ready to go again. Plus you have the world’s best riders all aiming to be in peak form, nobody dropped in for experience to pad out the team and it all contributes to making the Tour a product that’s so compelling it left June’s Netflix series looking even more contrived.

The final weekend saw a dash around the Vosges to Le Markstein. It could have been the final showdown to settle the overall. Instead it was the Thibaut Pinot adieu stage as he put in a great ride to delight the crowds, a symbiosis of euphoria. You can argue if he’d moved later on the Petit Ballon he might have got the stage win, just as you can argue he should have won more in his career but that misses the point, to see the communion with the public is the proof. At the finish Tadej Pogačar also got a consolation stage win. If the Paris stage is the most formulaic of them all it still threw up a surprise with Jordi Meeus taking his first World Tour win.

The Verdict
An enthralling Tour, there were so many days of great sport with end to end action for hours. The yellow jersey competition was exciting and the suspense lasted until the third week. When it was a duel it was good, yet not perfect as Vingegaard was in yellow within a week and kept it. Pogačar had moments in the ascendency but always as a challenger, never the leader. It would have been even better to see the overall lead change as often the fortune of the pair and for this to last until the Markstein, that would have made it a vintage for the ages. But once Vingegaard delivered his uppercut in the Combloux TT and a woozy Pogačar got knocked out on the Col de la Loze the contest was settled. The race for third place felt like less of a battle with Adam Yates the best of the rest but all the while playing the role of helper, a caddie ending up third on the clubhouse leaderboard. There was so much more than the overall and the racing didn’t stop thanks to continued lively stages and for once, a satisfactory ending to the mountains competition with Guilio Ciccone chasing points and getting his reward.

If Eurosport-GCN want to fill the schedules on a wet weekend in November they could do worse than replaying stages like Laruns, Cambasque, Issoire, Belleville, Morzine, St Gervais, Courchevel, Bourg-en-Bresse and Poligny. At the end of the year this blog traditionally picks five highlights from the season, the hard part will be picking among them and finding other races for the sake of balance.

As a product the Tour really stands alone. The world’s best riders, the height of summer, huge crowds. This gigantism is also a challenge, the festive crowds are increasingly interfering in the racing, it’s something to fix because more will come next year. Already 2024 can’t come soon enough with the prospect of a unique Tour starting in Italy and finishing in Nice, the hope of a fully fit Pogačar and a capable Evenepoel on the start line too.

68 thoughts on “The Moment The Tour de France Was Won”

  1. Thanks for the Tour commentary this year – has been as brilliant as the race! Great summary to round it off. Look forward to which stage(es) you choose for the ‘2023 Highlights’ 😉

  2. Despite the gap at the end I found this a more compelling duel than last year – at no point last year did Pogacar come close to gapping Vingegaard on any climb, while Cambasque threw all sorts of possibilities in the air.

    The questions will be about Pogacar’s preparation for the race, I think. Crashing at LBL is no way to start a TDF campaign and his final capitulation to Courchevel wasn’t failing to respond to attack, more his body finally having enough.

    The time trial and PR blitz afterwards was unfortunate but inevitable. At least this year Jumbo were more prepared for the questions from the press, as opposed to how they handled such questions last year, though accusing riders from FDJ of getting drunk is no way to endure yourself to the French public.

  3. Thank you to Inrng for this most exquisite of road racing blogs. It is an essential part of my tour experience. Appreciate all the effort that goes into it.

  4. I was looking forward to this ‘How the race was won’ and it did not disappoint. Thank you for all the advice and the excellent daily stage posts. Chapeau Inrng – best cycling blog there is!

  5. Merci for all the great articles (throughout the year). It really was a tremendous Tour – it would have been nice to see the ding dong battle for yellow continue all the way to the Vosges but c’est la vie, Vingegaard was the strongest rider and he showed it. I did not miss a super long stage, though I think at least one would be worth having from a sporting perspective.

    The Vuelta looks very interesting (I know nothing about the course, only the posited start list) and for the Tour next year I guess we’ll all be waiting on Evenoepoel’s form with baited breath.

    Sadly, next year’s Giro feels like an after thought – if they repeat the more fun parcours from years past, it will taste a little sweeter despite the inevitably weaker field.

  6. The allez! allez! soundtrack is unquestionably a big part of what makes the Tour de France what it is but I wouldn’t describe it as essential. There is a danger here of the false binary. It’s not a simple case of “so essential” versus “seeing the crowd as a bad thing”.

    I enjoyed the quietness and the simplicity of the race on the Puy de Dome. I could see the race between Jorgensen and Woods unfold without it being obscured by the pressing throng or idiots with flares. I wasn’t distracted by runners, mooners, mankinis or dinosaurs. I didn’t worry that a rider would be obstructed or worse by spectators craning to see or film either the race or themselves, whether on TV or their own smartphones.

    The race was still recognisably the Tour de France in 2020. It was a fine race. It had far fewer spectators than usual. They were not absolutely essential to the spectacle in that special year, albeit nobody wants that situation or the circumstances which caused it to become the norm. There is a balance to be struck and the wisdom of crowds can sometimes lie in them being less overwhelming.

    • I enjoyed seeing the races during covid without all the crowds. While I’ve never seen a grand tour mountain stage live, watching on TV I’d much rather be able to see the riders in a clear & undistracted way rather than having to try to ignore all the attention seekers running alongside, waving signs in the path of the riders, etc.

  7. Only managed some ITV4 or Eurosport Highlights, and really enjoyed the Never Strays Far podcast, but as ever INRNG was a superb read throughout. In the process of moving house I recently found 3 intact (I regularly wear the other 2) INRNG caps and a pair of socks. I regret not buying the jersey; it would have improved my cycling. Would love them to become available again. Thanks so much for the insight and knowledge, it enables me to stay informed about and interested in cycling when I can’t commit the time to watch.

  8. On the issue of crowd interference – I’ve never been to a high mountain stage in person but how much is it just down to people drinking all day? Drunk people doing silly things is a common problem in many parts of life so I’m not sure what could be done aside from trying to ban alcohol

    • Was on the Ventoux in 2016, and alcohol was definitely a factor there (not sure about the actual Froome crash, but just in general) given the police had said no one would be allowed onto the mountain after 10am, so people were up there all day with cool-boxes and pop-up bars.

      I think a bigger factor with people getting carried away is that in the situations such as described, the amount of time people spend waiting for the race, then only to actually see a few seconds causes them to ‘try to make the most of it’, and also desperately try to capture photos and film rather than just watch.

      Finally, the encroaching crowd shouldn’t necessarily be seen as ‘bad behaviour’ as a be-all-and-end-all. Have see it a few times where people (me included) have found a good spot by the side of the road with a decent view. Then the area around you fills up as the race nears – all it takes is for someone to take half a step into the road for a better view and suddenly the person behind them can’t see anything, so they take a full step into the road, and the person behind them has to take as a step-and-half, and so on and so on. They’ve waited all day for a glimpse of the race and naturally they’re worried they suddenly won’t see a thing.

      That said, runners and people who stand in the centre of the road till the last second to get a sign/flag on the TV can do one…

      • Exactly this stepping out further happens at feed stations too, so it’s not just errant spectators doing it.

        Could a line-that-must-not-be-crossed be laid by an element of the caravane publicitaire whilst playing a catchy tune and dishing out freebies?
        One one hot stage in the Auvergne there were long sections of the whole road sprayed white so the technical possibility exists.

        If smartphones are the root cause of some unwanted crowd interactions, there would be cheers for riders who try to pinch the phones off the most blatant selfie-takers. Could even have a team competition for which team car ends up with the most. Hahaha

  9. Ivory Tour. Well played.
    Excellent recap. Thanks for all the writing the past three weeks and for years now actually.
    I had a question that may have been answered in a preview so my apologies if so. But why was the green jersey a new darker shade of green? New sponsor?

    • Yes, the jersey is sponsored by car brand Skoda and the shade matches their chose green colour for their electric car range. Personally I think the jersey looks good by itself, whether in your hands or on a rider on the podium… but it’s harder to pick out in the peloton on TV.

  10. A huge thank you, Inrng. Erudite, eloquent and insightful as ever. Long may you have the time and energy to continue sharing your knowledge. You’re the best cycling commentator bar none!

  11. Great blog, and a great post to end the Tour.
    Interesting, though, that the title photograph is of Pogacar, not Vingegaard. That’s kind of symbolic of the profiles of the two rides. It’s Pog that enlivens the competition, while JV just drone along a la Sky.

  12. Thanks for all your hard work and commentary.

    Thats a great graph of the TT speeds. When you consider that all the riders in the top 10 to 20 were actually giving it there all its a very strange graph statistically. If you were running some sort of scientific experiment you would investigate the two outliers to try explain the discrepancy to the rest. This years top 2 reminded me of Contador versus Schleck 2010 battle. With the top 2 also being the best TT.

  13. Brilliant summary, again. Thanks for the considerable time & effort you continue to invest for the entertainment (& education?) of us, the Devotee.

  14. I think Col de Marie Blanc is where it was won. It forced Pogacar into long range attacks which make no sense in hot weather. He simply made himself sick.

  15. With the benefit of hindsight:
    On stage 5, when Jonas made 1 minute, JV were thinking that they had an advantage, but overplayed it on Tourmalet – you can’t, as it turns out, tow Pogačar over huge mountains and expect to just ride away.
    So, on stage 9, I think they made the smart move. They knew that Jonas is better, but not explosive enough to distance Pogi, so they let Pogačar dangle in front, going in red for a looong time, and Jonas was at 99% just seconds behind, prompting Pogačar to maintain the pace he couldn’t sustain.
    Stage 14 and the same “Jonas dangling behind” tactic was employed, but this time UAE were on to it, or Pogačar was already showing the signs of fatigue (he did not look good). Stage 15 was a stalemate, as Pogačar himself told the press after the stage that he didn’t feel good enough/Jonsas looked good – so he didn’t try any moves.
    The TT was the result of Pogačar feeling the weight of 2 weeks of intense attacks, JV’s slightly better equipment and Jonas on a super day. Still, the distance to the 3rd rider that day was huge.
    Game over
    I don’t think that JV applying pressure and maintaining high tempo on stages is something that put a dent in Pogačar – he’s riding the slipstream same as every other GC rider.
    Also if Pogačar attacks and Jonas responds – this is not Pogačar senselessly tiring himself, Jonas is doing the same efforts. It’s sharing such attacks between two attackers (Roglič/Vingegaard last year) that tires the attacked rider more or as JV did this year “dangling seconds behind”

  16. To add my sincere thanks to the many of those who have already posted theirs to INRNG, for not just your wonderful TDF coverage, but the insights and added enjoyment of bike racing that your blog brings to me year-round. Thank you.

    • Long time reader, first time poster – this comment sums up my feelings towards this site more eloquently than I can

      Thanks INRNG for your wonderful site

  17. “If you can remember your Newton and F=ma then seeing these two accelerate so hard on the steep climb showed their abundance of force”

    Hmm… re-arrange the equation, it showed their abundance of F/m. I.e., N/kg. Integrated over time, that’s W/kg.

    • Oh, that was meant to be some fun nitpicking, to recast your prose back to the eternal cliche of W/kg in cycling. Not sure the fun part came across. 😉

      Thanks for the blog Mr Ring!

      • Nitpicking the nitpicking 😉, it’s the scalar product of force and velocity that gives power.

        The power-to-rate ratio comes from writing ma=F-mg, and assuming a constant speed when climbing so that mg=F, ie the exerted force compensates gravity. This can then be multiplied by velocity to get power: mgv=Fv=P, which can be rewritten as P/m = gv: a larger power-to-weight ratio gives a higher velocity when climbing.

        I am sure the host of this excellent blog can express this much more eloquently.

  18. Despite the excellent & perceptive prose (as ever) from Inrng (ivory Tour 🙂 ) it cannot disguise that this was not a particularly memorable edition. I know this is not a view universally shared. Months before the race started it was being slated as a race between only two riders and that is exactly what happened (until one pulled decisively ahead). There was little or no tension about the final result. Yes there were some good stages but that doesnt compensate for the lack of tension for the yellow jersey. Perhaps if Cav had come through for the record on the last stage it would have been different. To see the greatest TdF rider of recent years end (probably) his career in such banal circumstances was sad and took away interest from the rest of the race.

    I thought Richard Plugge’s comments with regard to beer were ludicrous and really doesnt help with the media circus around “drugs”, even Dave Brailsford at his most one eyed would have avoided that particular elephant trap (I seem to remember Chris Froome liking a, very occasional, glass of wine!). Things will get worse next year assuming Remco Evenepoel makes it to the start line, anything that might prevent the golden boy’s ascent to the yellow jersey will be pounced upon by his adoring media.

    • I saw this as the best edition of the tour i can remember (other than the biased opinion when cadel won). I normally don’t watch any stages live just the highlights but this year i watched a lot.

      Not really because of the GC battle for first but for the great GC battle between the top 10 which had many twists and turns. But even more than that virtually any stage that was not flat was a great race in itself from the breakaways to the massive pace set by the GC domestiques.

      Take the stage that Gall won as an example (i think the same one POG cracked from memory). There was a massive battle to get in the break with several GC riders managing with team mates who set a strong pace for a 100 km or so with the GC group also setting a cracking pace but unable to get close enough. Then a great fight for the breakaway and a separate one in the GC group. And at the day lots of positions changed. It was almost like a one day race.
      Obviously its just my way of looking at things as i don’t see the GC battle for posi 1 to be the only game going.

    • I remember that no so far away, drinking a glass of wine in the evening was recommended. Times are changing…

      Agree with you: the tour started well, but the 2 1st stages of the last week made for an anti climax.

  19. I’d like to add my thanks to you for your superb blog commentary this year. I’m still relatively new to the the unique vocabulary, traditions and history of the Tour, but all become clear through the polished lens of your prose. Merci and chapeau!

  20. The crowd IS a nuisance and only a nuisance. I didn’t miss it one bit on the Puy de Dôme or anywhere. A few bystanders are enough. More than that is a nuisance and a ridiculous sight to behold, flags and photographing and invading the road and losing all self-respect.

    • Idiots are a nuisance agreed, crowds generally no. The crowds on the Petit Ballon at La Virage Pinot created an absolutely fantastic scene that only enhanced what was happening in the race.

  21. Another note of thanks, I enjoy the blog throughout the year and despite the proliferation of podcasts still find you provide insights and details missed by others.

  22. A brilliant Tour and a smiling start to every stage day reading IR’s wise musings.

    A great Tour for UK riders too with two Yates, Pidcock and, before his retirement, Shaw. Despite that and despite GB being third on the current PCS nations ranking (above Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark…!) it appears the pyramid is being eroded from the base. UK Conti team sponsorship is declining, as are the quantity and quality of home races, while the classic entry to WT teams through good EU clubs (A Yates, Carthy…) with access to decent races is complicated by Brexit rules on freedom of movement. The golden era are close to retirement too (Cavendish, Froome) or already in their thirties (Thomas, Yates *2…). I hope Poole, Watson, Tulett, Vernon and company will provide a new generation. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic.

  23. Hi Friday, I’m aware of that and also the three in FDJ Conti etc. The comment was more based on the likely medium-term impact of loss of quality UK conti teams and races, together with the UK’s hard Brexit making integration of UK citizens into EU based amateur teams more difficult.

    • TBH I think some britons felt a bit like misfits and imposters even before brexit… and being essentially monolingual was always an obstacle.
      Whether a brazilian footballer or a colombian cyclist, an individual with a sought-after talent still has freedom of movement regardless of single-market status. (Maybe it’s more complicated for more standard occupations eg non-eu masseurs).
      The damage will more be to the idea of cycling as a career option in the uk, and to coaching within the uk which now as something of a cycling backwater will be slow to learn of new relevant sports science developments.

      • “Whether a brazilian footballer or a colombian cyclist, an individual with a sought-after talent still has freedom of movement regardless of single-market status.”

        Yes, though the point I was making was that young cyclists seeking a place with French (for example) amateur clubs will have neither the salary or legal help that a star footballer or cyclist might expect to negotiate the complex visa, residence or nationality minefield.

  24. I loved Pinot’s ride on the penultimate stage. A huge attack, slightly ill timed but with buckets of panache and doomed to faliure. Ending it all committed to the they he rode, and with the French on the side of the road going crazt for it. Brilliant to watch. Viva la Pinot.

    (NB – Inner Ring, brilliant converage as always. Merci)

    • I don’t know if I’m just a bad fan but I sort of lost my love for Pinot over time…

      I desperately wanted him to win a Tour between 2015-20 even if I knew it was a long shot…

      Then in ’19 I thought this was it, and still wonder if he would’ve won without the injury but in the years since I feel like the love’s dissipated and plummeted this year? Even with the occasional goat hugging pic still pulling the heartstrings.

      It wasn’t really the Demare stuff pre Tour, although I definitely felt Demare was more likely to win a stage than Pinot – surely there was space for both in the team?

      But really it was just the poor management of FDJ over a long period of time coupled with Pinot’s own fragility and occasional strange tactical choices. When I look back now at Bardet’s intelligence and determination that built the most impressive French team we’ve seen recently in 2017’s AG2R, I feel like Bardet has got the most from his career when in truth Pinot probably hasn’t.

      Even seeing Gaudu’s strange form this year reminds you FDJ just never seem to be able to manage their stars form (it almost feels totally random when Gaudu, Pinot, Demare perform or don’t) nor attract the right riders to back their leaders, nor really even develop their riders to be stronger versions of themselves.

      And so what felt like supporting an up and coming French talent in the 20-teens who had a huge personality and an exciting style ended by feeling you’d watched a talent who never reached his heights because of a lacklustre team and the injury in 2019 was more inevitable implosion than simply bad luck.

      With the new generation of riders, Pinot’s attacking instincts pale in comparison and I’m left wondering whether during the Giro’s Dumoulin years, where Pinot competed, there was a more aggressive tactic similar to Bora’s recently that might have landed him the GT I wished he’d won.

      Anyway – I’m being a misery, apologies, I just feel like watching Pinot recently has been a bit depressing as you knew he’d never win even a stage with any of his attacks so everything was just a little sad.

      • You mention Gaudu and his is an interesting case. Far from his form being badly managed, he was hitting the same power numbers this Tour as last year when he finished fourth. But it looked worse as there were more riders ahead of him this time, the difference between his 4th place and 9th this year was the higher quality of the field, plus there must be a mental aspect as he felt prouder of going for fourth last year whereas this year he was having to explain his relative performance.

        • Oh – well that’s what you get for being an armchair fan.

          At Paris Nice though he seemed to have a taken a giant leap?
          Were his numbers at PR the same as the TDF?
          Were Pog and Vin that far below their Summer form?

          From Dauphine onwards Gaudu just seemed a long way off?

      • You make an interesting point re FDJ riders. I would widen it to include French riders in general, Alaphilippe being an exception (on a non French team), and also Laporte who has improved exponentially since leaving a French team. French riders seem to appear on the scene as good or very good riders, not quite front rank, and then don’t improve. Pinot and Bardet are the obvious examples but you could also throw in Barguil, Demare, Coquard, Martin. Is it that there is something lacking on French teams? The obvious thing to say would be budget I suppose. Or is it a mental thing? French riders are guaranteed stardom and decent money by gaining a middling top 10 position or a stage in the Tour. You could maybe make a parallel to English footballers having made it on breaking into a premier league team.

        • I wouldn’t actually include Bardet in that – I genuinely think he did improve and built a team around himself in a very impressive way, his only issues were TT’ing and simply not having the top level despite being an excellent rider. I remember Froome crashing on one stage and the entire AG2R team being present and riding for Bardet, they were just unlucky it wasn’t during a hard enough section.

          But I agree elsewhere – sometimes it seems luck of the draw which countries get the top riders but France’s now decades without a true contender must be linked weaknesses in their Junior level system – I guess we wait till the next generation now who don’t seem far away with some real talents coming through.

          It does seem weird that the same country with Clairefontaine in Football hasn’t replicated the organisational feat in what is in one sense their summer sport?

          • France has got, as far as I know, a more than decent juniores and U23 pipeline, despite relative lack of triumphs at pro level, which is no small feat, and that’s both thanks to solid support by public amministrations of every kind *and* a privileged structure in terms of top teams, given that they can often “sell” to their sponsors TDF participation as a marketing success in itself.

            However, just have a look as a proxy to Junior Worlds (only ’cause we don’t have many international Junior races to check), or U23 results in main competitions, France doesn’t look to have much of an issue there.

            (Of course, it could be a case of excessive early focus on mere victory as in *recent* Italian male juvenile results, but I don’t feel so, French riders look like they need deeper development, rather than being already burnt out)

          • The U19/U23 Worlds is not really a good reference point for any country, because all the best riders in those age groups are already signed with a WorldTour or ProSeries team (or a linked development team) and managing their development independently of the national programs.

            The age group races only benefit national program coaches, and should really not have rainbow jerseys awarded.

          • @DaveRides
            Barring the random natural champion, you wouldn’t have competitive U19 athletes without a decent underlying system, as France has (as I said, the Worlds here are just a proxy, of course you have many more references for U23, and of course those results don’t mean much in the broader picture, but they give you some hint about where France cycling’s troubles are *not* originated from)

  25. Great TdF commentary as ever. And thank you for respecting my scepticism. Exactly the same comment was removed by a well known liberal newspaper. Personally I feel a bit sorry for VGG, who can’t win when he wins. We need a proper France v Italy v Spain v Brazil challenge- who cares if two made up Euro regions fight it out. (Sarcasm signal here)

  26. Three weeks of excellent analysis and detail INRNG. Thank you for all your informed herculean efforts.
    For me this has been the best and most exciting TdF I have had the pleasure to follow. Full of chaos, anarchy, enthusiastic crowds and wonderful French scenery. Through all this, the best rider still won.

  27. Definetely one of the most exciting TdFs I can remember. So many great stages, even most the “transition” stages were as exciting as a good one day race.

    And the battle btw. JV og TP is among the best in cycling ever.

    It seems the press corp is higly biased toward Pogacar – but I guess he will never win le Tour again if he doesn’t change his approach.

    He seems so badly adviced. Who would ever think it was smart move to race every stage like it was a one day race? Especially when you start the tour under prepared and lacking base due to injury?

    The majority of the press corp could start wondering if it wasn’t time to stop being fan boys and start asking questions to UAE. I think his team is letting him down.

    • It must be said in his defence that there were two factors that made it necessary to take the risk of “racing every stage like it was a one day race”: (1) the nature of the course which placed most pro-Pogacar stages on the first week and made the third week rather pro-Vingegaard, and (2) the nature of his compromised preparation, which meant that he would be at his best during the first week (whereas Vingegaard would improve at least relatively).

      What do you do in such a situation? Try to win seconds and bonus seconds wherever you can during the first week and then hope for the best – or try to save energy as much as possible in the hope that you will have one or two good days and that you will able to follow Vingegaard´s wheel on the stages which Jumbo-Visma has marked in red ink?

      What we don´t know is whether Pogacar really went too hard on those Early stages – if we by too hard mean harder than what it was estimated he could do without burning himself. It now looks like he did, but…

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