Tour de France: Lampaert stuns favourites to take yellow jersey

Yves Lampaert (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) has taken a shock win in the rain-soaked short opening time trial stage of the 2022 Tour de France, finishing five seconds ahead of leading favourite Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) to claim the race's first maillot jaune on the streets of Copenhagen.

In what was effectively the first snapshot of the battle for the overall, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) confirmed his status as overall favourite with third place, completing the 13.2-kilometre course just seven seconds down on Lampaert, and best of the GC racers.

Leading contender Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) was only able to make fourth after he, like so many of the TT and GC heavyweights, opted for an early start to try to avoid what proved to be a completely inaccurate forecast of heavy rain coming in late in the day, and then suffered a suspected late puncture.

Although two more lead favourites, Jonas Vingegaard and teammate Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) opted to take things cautiously on the wet, ultra-slippery corners, they still proved to be Pogačar's closest rivals on the day, finishing 14 and 15 seconds, respectively, down on Lampaert.

But conditions then party dried out on a short, technical city centre course in Denmark and the wind dropped, providing a golden opportunity for the late starters to make the most of a marginally less risky course, which Lampaert, a former double national TT champion, undoubtedly did to perfection.

"My mind is exploding,  a top 10 would have been great, now I beat all the best in the world, I never expected it," Lampaert, 31, said.

"I can't believe it, I know i'm in good condition, but this is something I could never dream of, and I did it. Everybody is free to pedal as hard as they can in the time trial, but to beat Van Aert, Van der Poel, Ganna -  it's unbelievable for me."

How it unfolded

The combination of rain, slippery city-centre road surfaces and technical sections provided something of a stressful start to the 2022 Tour, despite the huge moral support provided by the massive, cheering crowds lining the 13.2-kilometre route. And the sight of early-favourite Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost) skidding and crashing twice in nearly consecutive corners was a dire warning to the risks of overcooking the course.

On a day where the ongoing investigations into the Bahrain Victorious team rumbled on uncomfortably in the background, Bauke Mollema proved his recent reigning Dutch national TT champion title was no fluke with a powerful best early time of 15:34.

The Trek-Segafredo racer's spell in the hot seat was quickly cut short, though, when Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) stormed round the gently-descending final right-hand corner in Tivoli Gardens to finish four seconds faster than his compatriot.

As a flurry of favourites crossed the line and as the rain teemed down, Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) was later loath to blame the poor weather conditions or even the late puncture caused by a glass shard for a time trial that initially placed him just atop the stage classification by a scant two seconds.

The reigning time trial World Champion said he didn't feel at ease on the corners, though, and although he had upped his pace notably in the second half of the course, when Van Aert streaked across the line a full six seconds ahead, and Ganna's hold on yellow slipped away almost before he knew he had it.

According to his UAE Team Emirates Sports Director Joxean Fernández Matxin, Pogačar had not opted to take any risks. If so, his rivals will have been considerably downhearted by the way the Slovenian Tour star managed to outpower the entire GC field by a minimum of eight seconds on his closest pursuer in that category, Jonas Vingegaard.

Yet if Van Aert's remarkable ride, outshining both the pre-stage favourite and the pre-Tour favourite, looked all but certain to place him in yellow, his fellow Belgian Lampaert turned the tables in spectacular fashion in the final hour.

Clearly at home on the technical sections, including a twisting segment across a narrow, lake bridge where others had been much less comfortable, Lampaert's strengths of time trialling and bike-handling skills combined to give him a victory far beyond his expectations.

"The roads were really wet still, the potholes full of water, so I always had the same conditions [as the favourite]," Lampaert said afterwards. "I always thought in the corners, 'Yves, go faster, trust in your tyres, you lose seconds in the corners'. And in the end I came in with five seconds in front of Van Aert."

While Lampaert, even in his greatest hour as a racer, had thoughts for his good friend and teammate Tim Declercq, who had to pull out of the Tour de France line-up because of COVID-19 positive, he said that was only, "On Monday, when I see my girlfriend and son, I think that’s when I'm going to really realise I have had the yellow jersey for at least one day."

The full evaluation on the opening Danish segment of the Tour will only come after the widely-predicted battle of the crosswinds on the 18-kilometre bridge the peloton face late on Saturday's stage. 

But while Pogačar can afford to wait for yellow for now, Lampaert can enjoy the time spent in the limelight with the biggest win of his career.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes