The performances that defined the first ‘week’ of the 2022 Tour de France

It's been an action-packed start to the race. Here are the moments that stood out to us.

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We’re now nine days into the 2022 Tour de France, and it’s fair to say we’ve been treated to plenty of action so far. As the riders wake up to their first proper rest day of the race (we’re not counting the travel day between stages 3 and 4) let’s take a moment to look back at the performances that have defined the race so far.

A surprise winner on stage 1

There was plenty to talk about after the opening-stage time trial in Copenhagen. A bevy of bizarre time trial helmets, for starters, but also a surprise victor.

Wout van Aert looked to have the stage wrapped up, but a stellar ride from his compatriot Yves Lampaert unseated Van Aert late in the day. Maybe the best part of Lampaert’s win was his emotional post-race interview. “Now I’ve beaten all the best riders in the world,” he said, holding back tears. “I’m just a farmer’s son from Belgium, eh?” Stirring moments.

The brilliance of Wout van Aert

Van Aert just missed out on winning the opening stage, but he needn’t have worried – the versatile Belgian would get his chance, and he’d go on to play a starring role in just about every stage in the first week. 

Van Aert followed up his second place in the ITT with another two consecutive runner-up finishes (both in sprint stages), before going one better on stage 4.

On the road to Calais, Van Aert attacked on a short climb roughly 12 km from stage’s end, capitalising on a blistering lead-out from his Jumbo-Visma teammates which shredded the field. Riding in the yellow jersey, Van Aert got clear on his own and held on all the way to the finish to take a barnstorming victory.

In all, Van Aert spent four days in yellow, a stint that eventually ended with a somewhat puzzling, do-or-die attack on stage 6. Knowing he was going to lose his lead the following day anyway, Van Aert worked hard to get off the front, then ended up leading the race solo in the final kilometres. He was eventually caught and ejected from the race lead, but his effort certainly caught the attention of his rivals. In summing up Van Aert’s performance, Tom Pidcock offered one of the quotes of the Tour so far: “He’s just playing with our balls, innt he?”

Losing yellow wasn’t the end of Van Aert’s time in the limelight though. On stage 8, then in the green jersey of points leader, Van Aert won in commanding fashion on the uphill drag into Lausanne.

So to recap: In nine days, Van Aert’s won two stages, finished second on another three, worn yellow for four days, and now has a very handy lead in the points classification, with almost double the points of his closest rival. Pretty good start to the race for the 27-year-old.

A couple of wonderful breakaway wins

Stage 5 – the race’s ‘Roubaix day’ – was long anticipated as one of the must-watch stages of the Tour. It delivered action aplenty – not least some drama in the GC battle and a terrific breakaway stage win for Simon Clarke.

Even in a vacuum, Clarke’s win was terrific – a patiently ridden finale, a wonderful, desperate sprint, and a textbook bike throw – but the context of the win made it even more special.

Six months back Clarke’s career looked like it could be over. The 35-year-old was left in the lurch when the Qhubeka-NextHash team fell over and it seemed that finding a ride for 2022 would be very unlikely. Israel-Premier Tech ended up finding space for Clarke, and the Australian repaid the team’s support with Israel-Premier Tech’s first-ever Tour stage win. Simply brilliant.

Four days later, on the eve of the second rest day, Bob Jungels achieved his own impressive comeback win. Also in the day’s breakaway – this one in the medium mountains on the way to Châtel les portes du Soleil – Jungels attacked with 60 km to go, and held off a chasing Thibaut Pinot to take a memorable stage win.

It wasn’t just any win for the Luxembourger – it was his first WorldTour win in more than four years, and a win that came after a frustrating year or so spent recovery from iliac artery surgery. 

Magnus Cort’s KOM jersey

Magnus Cort didn’t win a stage in the first week, but he did provide plenty of entertainment from the breakaway. Cort got in the break on the first two road stages on home soil, taking every available KOM point to put himself firmly in polka dots. At the top of several climbs along the way he even posted up and celebrated for the Danish crowd – moments of great joy that lit up the opening stages.

When the race resume in France, Cort again got up the road, including on the cobbled stage 5, even though there were no KOM points available that day. In all, the Dane spent seven entertaining days in the maillot à pois, before Simon Geschke took it from his shoulders on stage 9.

Regardless of whether Cort tries to reclaim the jersey or not, his tenure in polka dots was great publicity for his team plus a lot of fun along the way.

The Tadej Pogačar show

Pogačar came to the fore immediately with a strong third place in the opening-stage time trial in Denmark. That was just the start.

On the cobbles of stage 5, Pogačar didn’t just survive as some of his GC rivals faltered – he went on the attack, making the cobbles look easy, and showing us yet again just how complete a rider he is. And then he won the next two stages.

On the uphill sprint into Longwy on stage 6, Pogačar made runner-up Michael Matthews look slow, taking the win and taking yellow. And the following day, on the brutally steep climb to La Planche des Belles Filles, Pogačar reeled in a late surge from Jonas Vingegaard before pouncing to his eighth career stage win at the Tour. At just 23 years old.

In nine stages so far, Pogačar’s finished inside the top seven on six occasions. He now leads Vingegaard by 39 seconds in the race for yellow and seems very likely to hold that lead all the way to Paris.

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