Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) in the white jersey of best young rider after finishing third on stage 1 of the 2022 Tour de France.

What we’ve learned about the Tour’s GC contenders from stage 1

Pogačar is in pole position as he begins his Tour de France title defence, with Vingegaard and Roglič best of the rest, as expected.

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You couldn’t write it. Well, actually you could; we have been for weeks. But with the Jumbo-Visma duo practically tied on time in Tadej Pogačar’s shadow and a pair of Ineos Grenadiers leading the charge behind, things are more or less exactly as expected 13.2 km into the Tour de France.

So the first thing we’ve learned from the opening time trial is that the top three are just that.

They’re also the only three who made it into the top 10 on the stage, but on a flat and technical course, not to mention incredibly wet when most of the GC riders were doing their efforts, it’s not altogether surprising.

Deficits to Pogačar after stage 1:

  • Jonas Vingegaard +8 seconds
  • Primož Roglič +9
  • Adam Yates +16
  • Geraint Thomas +18
  • Aleksandr Vlasov +24
  • Dani Martinez +37
  • Romain Bardet +38
  • Nairo Quintana +42
  • David Gaudu +43
  • Jack Haig +44
  • Jakob Fuglsang +48
  • Damiano Caruso +48
  • Enric Mas +49
  • Ben O’Connor +54
  • Guillaume Martin +56
  • Thibaut Pinot +1:14
Pogačar’s closest challenger after stage 1 is Vingegaard, with the Dane’s teammate Roglič less than a second further behind.

The best of the rest is Adam Yates who led home a trio of decent-finishing Ineos Grenadiers in 13th, 16 seconds down on Pogačar. 15th-place Tom Pidcock was one of the last off the ramp at the drier end of the day, while Geraint Thomas lamented the mistake of leaving on his un-aero gilet after finishing 18th, just two seconds slower than Yates.

Although Thomas seemed bitterly disappointed at the finish, he ought to be pretty happy with his ride, as should Yates whose form was in question after catching COVID-19 at the Tour de Suisse. On the other hand, the team’s co-leader Dani Martínez had a much less satisfying day on his brand new Bolide, losing more than half a minute to the best GC riders. Granted, he’s only about 20 seconds worse off than his British teammates, but it could be the beginning of a sorting out in the Ineos Grenadiers camp.

Further down still, there are many more non-surprises and a fair few dashed hopes.

Among those who ought to be content is Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), whose steady effort puts him just 17 seconds behind Pogačar, making him the fifth and last contender within 30 seconds.

Vlasov was one of the Specialized-sponsored riders modelling a new TT helmet and its controversial ‘face sock’.

Qualifying as not surprising but nevertheless a little sad is a handful of hopefuls between 38 seconds and a minute, which considering the talent ahead of them could make stage 1 race-defining. Romain Bardet (DSM) leads the way, but the Frenchman has said he’s after stages so may not mind all that much. Also likely to be satisfied, Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) finds himself in our virtual top 10 thanks to some handy wet-weather handling.

Some of the biggest disappointments come courtesy of Bahrain Victorious whose twin leaders Jack Haig and Damiano Caruso lost 44 and 48 seconds respectively. Neither is particularly known for his time trialling, and Haig for one was pragmatic at the finish, happy to get through safely after suffering a puncture on the greasy roads at the end of a trying week.

Now to the really big disappointments, and the first just continues the dirge that is Movistar’s record of late. Poor Enric Mas has an on-and-off relationship with the time trial bike, and today’s result will rank firmly in the ‘off’ category. He really could have done with less rain, fewer corners, and at least one positive gradient. Alas, Copenhagen would not play ball and the Spaniard starts his campaign for a career-best Tour podium finish with a 49-second deficit to the man likely to stand on the top step.

Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citroën) is a further five seconds down and will be flicking through his road book looking for any opportunity to take some of them back. At least with almost a minute’s gap he might not be watched so closely? We can hope.

The last conclusion to be drawn from stage 1 is that French star Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is all but confirmed as stage/KOM hunter, as is Guillaume Martin (Cofidis). That’s not to say that we’d necessarily expect them to finish in the top 20 on a good day, but even so, their deficits are such that GC will be a big challenge and they’ve both already played down a campaign for yellow. Frankly, that’s good news in my book. All-in for an all-French fight for polka dots.

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