If the opening weekend of the 2022 Tour de France belonged to the Danish crowds and Magnus Cort, then the return to the events homeland belonged to two men.
Wout Van Aert and Tadej Pogacar ensured that two of the races main competitions were over by the end of stage 9 in Chatel.
Van Aert was in the yellow jersey but it was the Maillot Vert that he was at the race for. It didn’t stop him attacking the race on that familiar bit of headland to holiday makers who make for Calais on the ferry.
He rode the whole race off his wheel and soloed to a memorable victory. Amazingly despite its position on the map in the north west of France, this was Calais’ first stage finish. The town put its challenges aside for the day and put on a lovely face. Maybe next time I head off a ferry I won’t just zoom past on my way to other more exotic French locations.
The stage to Arenberg saw the end of a couple of GC challengers hopes. Ben O’Connor and Primoz Roglic lost time. Pogacar was superb (as he is on every stage nowadays) and the expected Ineos onslaught from the cobbled specialists like Dylan Van Baarle and Luke Rowe didn’t provide any advantage.
A Wallonian stage followed to Longwy and despite some Van Aert magic as he went away on his own again, the jersey changed hands when a Pogacar sprint won the stage and yellow.
The Slovenian wonder kid wasn’t done there winning the next stage on the Planches des Belles Filles overtaking long time leader Leonard Kamna in the final 100 metres on the steep gravel extension to the usual finish.
Van Aert hit back on Saturday winning a reduced bunch sprint over the border in Switzerland. But Pog was right up there at the finish.
The stage to Chatel yesterday finally saw a breakaway succeed and it was a pair of comeback kids who made this a stage for the ages and broke up the WoutPogopoloy.
Alone with 60km to go, Bob Jungels rolled back the years with a brilliant display of paced climbing and aggressive descending.
He held on from Thiabut Pinot who was closing fast but couldn’t get across the last 20 seconds before getting caught on the line by a pair of chasers.
Well done Bob.
So whilst there will be plenty of commentary stating how dull this Tour could end up being as a result of Pogacar pretty much having won it already, there is still plenty going on and enough to make this a really strong edition so far.
Can’t wait for week 2!