The moments that defined the ‘second week’ of the 2022 Tour de France

What a week of racing it's been. Before the final week begins, let's take stock of what we just witnessed.

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It’s time for the final rest day of the 2022 Tour de France and the riders have certainly earned it. There’s been brutal mountain stages, there’s been extreme heat, there’s been riders leaving the race with COVID and with injuries. 

Before the race resumes for the final week of action, let’s take a look back at the performances that defined the ‘second week’ of the 2022 Tour.

Jonas Vingegaard’s stage 11 raid 

What better place to start than one of the most memorable stages in the Tour’s recent history?

We knew coming into the race that Jumbo-Visma had the strongest team on the startlist and we saw that in full effect on stage 11. The team was on the attack early in the stage, splitting a group of GC favourites off the peloton and peppering overall leader Tadej Pogačar on the Col du Galibier.

Pogačar had to respond to no fewer than eight attacks from Jumbo-Visma and put in four moves himself. He seemed to have handled it all fine, until it was clear he hadn’t.

With 5 km to go on the final climb of the day – the Col du Granon – it looked as if Jumbo-Visma had overexerted themselves in trying to drop Pogačar. Jonas Vingegaard was isolated in the group of six out front, while Pogačar had a teammate (Rafał Majka) and Ineos Grenadiers had two riders as well (Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates). But then Vingegaard attacked and everything changed.

As the Dane rode away, Pogačar paid for his earlier exertions and cracked in a way we’ve never seen from him before. Vingegaard rode to his first Tour de France stage win nearly three minutes ahead of Pogačar, took yellow, and with that, put himself in the driver’s seat to win the race overall. Extraordinary.

Vingegaard on his way to Tour glory?

Jumbo-Visma’s dominance on stage 11 was only one such display from the Dutch team. There have been plenty of impressive moments throughout the race, including on stage 12 where every single rider from the team was on the front of the peloton, before Wout van Aert – in the green of points classification leader no less – shredded the peloton on Alpe d’Huez. 

Pogačar’s been on the attack plenty since losing yellow, but so far Vingegaard and Jumbo-Visma have looked up to the task. Whether that remains the case into the third week remains to be seen, given stage 15 was something of a disaster for the team.

Primož Roglič left the race at the start of the day to tend to injuries he sustained earlier in the race. Then Steven Kruijswijk crashed out with a suspected collarbone fracture, and Tiesj Benoot and Vingegaard also hit the deck. The last week will be interesting

Tom Pidcock’s win on Alpe d’Huez

It’s no secret that Tom Pidcock is a remarkable talent; a world-class rider on the road, on a MTB, and on a cyclocross bike. But until this week, Pidcock had somehow only managed one pro win on the road. What better way to double your tally than winning on cycling’s most mythical climb.

The magic began well before that final ascent. Pidcock’s descending to get into the early break was quite something to behold, and he was equally impressive on subsequent descents.

And then when the break hit Alpe d’Huez, Pidcock rode off the front and just kept on going. He never looked in real difficulty despite the challenging gradient and ended up winning the stage by nearly a minute. 

Winning on Alpe d’Huez would be a career-defining moment for any rider but to do it in your first Tour de France, at just 22, speaks to the incredible talent that this man has. Many more victories are sure to come for Pidcock in the years ahead.

The welcome return of Chris Froome

While Pidcock was riding to a stunning victory on stage 12, another Briton was also putting in a terrific ride from the breakaway. Chris Froome, 15 years Pidcock’s senior, wasn’t able to handle the pace when his young compatriot rode away on Alpe d’Huez, but with a dogged fight Froome did manage to hold on for third place on the stage.

Froome was all smiles when he crossed the finish line, and fair enough. It’s been a long and brutally tough road back from his horrible crash during recon at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné. And to be frank, he hasn’t come close to looking like the rider who won four Tours. But on stage 12 we finally got to see Froome at the front of a bike race again, and it was a wonderful thing

Third on the stage is easily Froome’s best performance since his crash in June 2019, and in fact, his highest placing in any bike race since his second in the stage 20 ITT at the 2018 Tour de France.

We sports fans love a good comeback story and Froome’s ride in the break on stage 12 was the very definition of that. Hopefully there’s more to come from the 37-year-old.

Michael Matthews’ gritty win into Mende

Michael Matthews is a wonderful bike rider. He’s got a very fast finish, particularly on hard hilly days; he climbs better than most of the sprinters; and he’s got a sneaky-good time trial, especially in prologues. But for much of his career, he’s been forced to live in the shadow of some truly remarkable athletes; riders like Peter Sagan, Julian Alaphilippe, Tadej Pogačar, and Wout van Aert.

Matthews came into stage 14 of the Tour with two runner-up finishes in this year’s race, and a total of four such finishes since his last stage win in 2017. On a hot and hilly day to Mende, Matthews got himself in the break and then attacked that break solo with 50 km to go. He was joined by a handful of others, but on the steep final climb, it was Matthews that again set off alone.

Matthews’ ride over those last few kilometres was the definition of grit. He was caught by Alberto Bettiol, dropped, but then battled back before finally riding clear on his own once more. Crossing the line you could see how much the win meant to the Australian – it was the result of a mountain of hard work, not just that day, but in the past few weeks.

Great win, great victory salute.

Jasper Philipsen finally getting his stage win

Speaking of riders who went close a bunch of times before winning a stage of this year’s Tour, how about Jasper Philipsen? At the 2021 Tour, Philipsen finished on the podium on five separate stages without a win. On stage 3 of this year’s race he was third, then a day later he won the bunch sprint for second … but celebrated vigorously thinking that he’d won

The Belgian would have to wait nearly two weeks to get his next real opportunity, and when he did, he made the most of it. On a roasting hot Sunday into Carcassonne, Philipsen outsprinted Wout van Aert and Mads Pedersen to take a well-earned debut stage win at the Tour.

He had to work hard for it too. Philipsen has a reputation for being a fearless sprinter who will put himself in whatever position is required to win, and he needed to do just that in order to win on Sunday. Just take a look at his trajectory in the final 300 metres of stage 15 (see below) – he gets pretty close to those barriers.

It was all worth it in the end. Philipsen finally has the win he was after.

What other performances have you enjoyed this past week?

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