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There’s plenty to look forward to in the final week of the Tour de France

Can Pogačar break Vingegaard's defences? Will the stage 20 ITT decide it all? Will Caleb Ewan get a stage win?

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The final rest day is behind us which means it’s time for the final ‘week’ of the Tour de France. Six stages remain in this year’s race and as things currently stand, we’re poised for an entertaining final chapter.

As the race gets back underway in Carcassonne on Tuesday, here’s what we’re looking forward to in the final week of the 109th Tour de France.

The testing of Vingegaard’s defences

Stage 15 wasn’t kind to Jumbo-Visma. Primož Roglič left the race to nurse his injuries, Steven Kruijswijk crashed out with what looked like a broken collarbone, Tiesj Benoot hit the deck, and so too did race leader Jonas Vingegaard. It wasn’t the ideal lead-in to a final week where Vingegaard will be under siege by those beneath him on the GC.

Vingegaard himself seems to be fine, but losing two climbing domestiques right before the Pyrenees isn’t the way the Dane would have drawn it up.

It will be intriguing to see whether the loss of Roglič and Kruijswijk puts a meaningful dent in Vingegaard’s defences. Maybe Jumbo-Visma won’t be as proactive in the final week as they have been so far, just to conserve the resources they still have left. Or maybe with Wout van Aert and Sepp Kuss still there they’ll be totally fine riding like they have been.

Either way, it’s going to be fascinating to watch.

Pogačar on the attack, again

If there’s one thing we can say for certain about the final week, it’s that Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) will go on the attack. He’s been aggressive ever since the maillot jaune was torn off his shoulders on stage 11, and if he’s going to win a third-straight Tour, he’ll need to take every opportunity that’s presented to him from here on out.

With Jumbo-Visma now looking more vulnerable than they have at any point in the race, Pogačar will be licking his lips. Can he actually drop his Danish rival? Can he take back yellow?

The Slovenian currently sits 2:22 behind Vingegaard. While that’s a considerable margin, we saw on stage 11 that all it takes is one bad day and that sort of deficit can be quickly erased.

The Pyrenees are where Pogačar will need to do most of his damage. He’s got three mountain stages remaining where he can make up real time. Then there’s the stage 20 time trial where he should be able to take some time back on Vingegaard, but not two and a half minutes.

A fascinating battle lies ahead.

Expect more of this.

Fireworks in the Pyrenees

The three remaining mountain stages in this year’s Tour start immediately after the rest day and come one after another. Stage 16 looks like it could be a day for the breakaway, but expect to see Pogačar try something on the pair of first-category climbs that come late in the day.

Stage 17 is more likely to have an impact on GC, with a series of four tough climbs back to back in the second half of the stage. The last climb leads right to the finish line at Peyragudes so that could be a nice launch pad.

And then there’s stage 18, the toughest of the three Pyrenean stages, with a HC climb, a Cat 1 and then another HC climb back-to-back, right to the finish in Hautacam. If there’s one mountain stage where a rider like Pogačar could make a difference, this is it.

Regardless of who ends up on top coming out of the Pyrenees, we’re sure to see plenty of action across these three stages, including from the breakaway specialists. Is it too much to dream of a stage win for Thibaut Pinot on the Hautacam?

The stage 20 time trial

At more than 40 km in length, the penultimate-stage time trial is the longest we’ve seen at the Tour since 2014. Big time gaps can open up in a TT that long, particularly given there’s a couple of short climbs towards the end of the stage. There’s every chance we could see meaningful changes to the GC by day’s end.

Who could forget Pogačar snatching victory from his compatriot Primož Roglič at the 2020 Tour by winning the penultimate-stage time trial? Could we see something similar again this year? On paper, Pogačar is a slightly better time trialist than Vingegaard – he’s finished ahead of Vingegaard in six of the eight time trials the pair have contested. So if Pogačar can make up some time in the Pyrenees, it’s not out of the question for him to ride back into yellow in the time trial.

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) will be another rider who has an opportunity in that final time trial. Assuming the Welshman can diesel his way through the Pyrenees like he did the Alps – staying in contention without looking like beating Pogačar or Vingegaard uphill – the 2018 Tour winner should be able to firm up a spot on the final podium come Paris.

Pogačar on his way to winning that famous stage 20 time trial at the 2020 Tour. Could he do similar in 2022?

The battle for the KOM jersey

Wout van Aert has the points classification sewn up, Pogačar will win the white jersey, and Ineos looks set to win the teams classification. But the KOM classification? That’s still very much up for grabs.

With three days in the Pyrenees about to begin, six riders are clustered within 11 points at the top of the KOM classification. Simon Geschke currently wears polka dots with 46 points, but Louis Meintjes, Neilson Powless, Vingegaard, Giulio Ciccone, and Pierre Latour are all on 35 points or more.

To put that 11-point range into context, there’s 20 points available to the first rider to summit each of the two HC climbs on stage 18.

In short, there’s a bunch of riders that could still win the KOM jersey from here. Of course Vingegaard (36 points) or Pogačar (26) are among those riders, assuming they dominate on the big climbs from here, but for the sake of diversity and having more races within the race, hopefully it’s a non-GC-contender that’s in polka dots come Paris.

Either way, the KOM battle is one to keep an eye on as we hit the Pyrenees.

Geschke has led the KOM classification since stage 9. Can he hold it to Paris?

Two more sprint stages

Two final opportunities await the sprinters who are able to drag themselves over the Pyrenees. Stage 19 into Cahors looks set to be a regulation sprint stage, albeit with a slight uphill drag to the line, and then there’s the biggest sprint stage of the year: the final-stage gallop on the Champs-Élysées.

Of the fastest-finishers at this year’s Tour, most have already won a stage. Fabio Jakobsen, Jasper Philipsen, Dylan Groenewegen, Mads Pedersen, Michael Matthews – they’ve all had their hands up. As a result, all eyes will be on Caleb Ewan in the two remaining sprint stages.

Assuming he doesn’t have any more bad luck, and assuming he’s able to get through the Pyrenees within the time cut, Ewan will be giving it everything to win on stages 19 and 21. The closest he’s been at this year’s Tour is ninth (on stage 3), he’s yet to win a Grand Tour stage since the Giro last year, and he hasn’t won at the Tour since 2020.

All of the difficulty Ewan’s been through in the past few weeks will be quickly forgotten if he’s able to nab a stage win before the Tour’s out.

What are you most looking forward to about the final week of the 2022 Tour de France?

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