On yet another glorious day for Jumbo-Visma at the 2022 Tour de France, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) all but sealed overall victory, while teammate Wout van Aert won the stage.
The Dane’s yellow jersey was never put under threat, and he gained another eight seconds on Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), who showed third.
The victory continues an astonishing run for Jumbo-Visma, making it three stage wins in as many days following Vingegaard’s win at Hautacam on Thursday and Christope Laporte in the sprint at Cahors yesterday.
Usually such a calm and level-headed figure, Van Aert was welling up in the post-race interview.
‘I’m emotional. Going into this Tour de France with this team is really special. Today was like a dream scenario. Jonas [Vingegaard] is such a strong guy, but especially such a good guy. I want to thank all my teammates and the whole team for this special three weeks. It’s unbelievable," the stage 20 winner said.
“I’m super-tired after three weeks, I gave it my all day. And actually, I want to win races and today I hoped to take the stage, and also that Jonas could secure his yellow.
“It was a really fast time trial, but you had to keep [something] left for the final 6km with two hard climbs. I think I based my effort really well, I could accelerate in the final. And technically I didn't make any mistakes, and it was a special setting coming to the top of this pretty village [Rocamadour]. Again, it’s a great day.”
Yet more emotional was Vingegaard, who by getting through this stage all but sealed his first overall victory at the Tour de France.
Victory never looked in doubt, but there was one hairy moment on a descent towards the end of the course where he nearly lost his balance. He appeared to knock off the pace after that, slowing to finish 19 seconds behind Van Aert, having been ahead of him at each of the three previous time checks.
At 40.7km, this was the longest time trial at any Tour de France since 2014. And although that wasn’t long enough for any genuine chances of changes to the podium positions, with Pogačar sealing second and Geraint Thomas (who was fourth on the stage at 32 seconds) the final spot on the podium, it did prove long enough to cause changes further down the GC.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) was the big winner of the day, leapfrogging both Nairo Quintana (Arkéa Samsic) and Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) from seventh to fifth.
Meintjes also slipped a further place down to eighth, after Romain Bardet (Team DSM) gained enough time over him to move to seventh — surely the only time the Frenchman, notorious for his weakness against the clock, has actually moved up a place after the final time trial.
How it unfolded
Unlike the opening time trial all the way back in Copenhagen three weeks ago, but much in keeping with how most of this Tour de France has been, the weather was warm and dry out on the road, reducing the impact of varying conditions that shaped the results on stage 1.
There was one non-starter, Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma), who abandoned the race for family circumstances. The Belgian had deserved the Champs-Élysées lap of honour awaiting the riders tomorrow, but his job helping Vingegaard win the yellow jersey had already been completed.
Mikkel Bjerg set the early benchmark, showing some of the same form that saw him tear the peloton to pieces for UAE Team Emirates leader Pogačar in the Pyrenees on stage 17.
It was a strong time, but was dwarfed by Ganna, who stormed the course in his rainbow stripes with a time that was 1:41 quicker.
For a while, Matteo Cattaneo (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) was the only rider to post a time within a minute of Ganna’s. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) was the next to do so, posting the third best time that was 51 seconds slower, although he slowed down having initially beaten Ganna’s time at the first time check.
Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) was another rider to beat Ganna’s time at the first check only to fade a little later on, posting a time 40 seconds slower than the Italian.
But when Van Aert posted the new fastest time at the same time check, the Belgian went on to put more time into Ganna, being 24 seconds up by the second time check, 22km into the route.
Despite rocking a little on the bike on the final uphill on the line, Van Aert was still flying over the second half of the route, and his eventual margin over Ganna was a huge 41 seconds.
Despite the size of the margin, victory was far from guaranteed, with the top GC riders still to go. And each of the riders on the podium got off to flying starts, with Geraint Thomas (this time having remembered to take off his gilet) going just one second slower at the first time check, Pogačar beating it by a second, and Van Aert’s teammate Vingegaard smashing it by seven seconds.
Although Pogačar slowed relative to Van Aert, the others were locked in a thrillingly tight battle for the stage victory, with Vingegaard just one second ahead and Thomas three seconds behind the Belgian at the third and final time check.
Only in the final stretch of the course did they both slow down, with Vingegaard surely a little spooked by his dodgy moment on the descent.
Other pre-race favourites had less good days. Yves Lampaert (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) did not have the legs as during his victory on stage 1, and finished way down in 113th. And following his multiple crashes in the first time trial, Stefan Bissegger’s (EF Education-EasyPost) atrocious luck continued as he was forced to change bikes just 7km into his ride. Seemingly disheartened, he slowed up for the rest of his effort, and placed 58th.
Instead, the day belonged to Van Aert, who now has the chance to add a fourth stage in the famous sprint of the Champs-Élysées.
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