Danish rider Jonas Vingegaard’s first victorious Tour has come hand in hand with the fierce domination of his team. Jumbo-Visma also finished well ahead in the count for stage victories, namely six, which is unprecedented since the days, ten years ago, of the Team Sky squad featuring Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish.
What’s more, the other stand-out rider on this 109th edition came from the same team: Wout van Aert, with three stage wins, the Green Jersey from start to finish and unanimously hailed as the most combative rider for the whole race… He was the bandmaster for the triumphant march of the Yellow Jersey, who also won the Polka Dot tunic.
After two outright victories, Tadej Pogačar lost this duel, but can console himself with the White Jersey, whilst the Ineos Grenadiers, dominated for the third year running in the conquest for the Yellow Jersey over which they used to have a vice-like grip, won the team classification and placed their 36-year-old veteran Geraint Thomas on the third step of the podium in the general classification, meaning that three winners of the Tour de France made up the top three in 2022!
Yellow Jersey: Vingegaard after Lampaert, van Aert and Pogačar
Four different riders wearing the Yellow Jersey is the average for the race over the last ten years. Belgian Yves Lampaert sprung a surprise during the inaugural time-trial, marked by rainy and changing conditions in Copenhagen, by beating his countryman Wout van Aert and especially the major favourite Filippo Ganna, none other than world champion in the speciality, who went on to discover that the Tour de France is world apart from the races in which he has shone so brightly to date.
Van Aert did not take long to put on the leader’s jersey for the first time, imitating, exactly one year later, his eternal rival Mathieu van der Poel, who came to the race this time some way off his best form. In Calais, thanks to a show of strength for which he alone holds the secret, the Belgian pre-empted a bunch sprint to break away and become the first rider to win on a flat stage with the Yellow Jersey on his back since Fabian Cancellara in Compiègne in 2007. He attacked again on the sixth stage to Longwy, in order to defend his jersey retained on the cobblestones that he loves, but could not stay out in front long enough as Tadej Pogačar reacquainted himself with the race lead, before tasing victory, also wearing yellow, on the Planche des Belles Filles, the scene of his Tour winning move in 2020.
The Slovene lost his chance at a third Tour on the Col du Granon pass and his successor, Jonas Vingegaard, also made a point, as a great champion, of raising an arm (he never raises both at the same time) wearing the precious tunic, in the Pyrenees, at Hautacam. The circle was symbolically completed with a Danish winner on the Tour de France that commenced in Denmark. Beforehand, the only winner of a Tour that started in his home country was Spaniard Miguel Indurain in 1992.
Green Jersey: a dream come true for Wout van Aert
After the seven triumphs by Peter Sagan, only interrupted in 2017 when Michael Matthews won it, and two successive victories by the Quick Step team, by Sam Bennett (in 2020) and Mark Cavendish (in 2021), Wout van Aert signalled the green jersey as his main goal, even though many observers considered its conquest to be incompatible with one of his team-mates aiming for the Yellow Jersey, whether Primož Roglič or Jonas Vingegaard.
However, the Belgian was involved in both struggles, using the intermediate sprints to not only increase his own points total but also to tire out the rivals of Jumbo-Visma in the general classification. As he found bumpy terrain which was to his liking, without even winning the rare bunch sprints (four in total), he broke Sagan's record of 477 points achieved with the current scale in use. Nevertheless, he contented himself with 480, forsaking an attempt at 500 which was available to him on the Champs-Élysées.
He wore the green jersey for the first time in his career, by proxy during the second stage and then as classification leader, without giving it up until Paris. Four days from the finish, he was mathematically ensured of succeeding Tom Boonen, the last Belgian to triumph in the points classification (in 2007). His runner-up, countryman Jasper Philipsen, was the only sprinter to win two stages on this Tour, but had to content himself with 286 points, a long way behind!
Polka Dot and White Jerseys: Vingegaard and Pogačar again
Only two riders wore the Polka Dot Jersey during the race on the 109th edition of the Tour de France, but neither of them won the best climber prize, which went, for the third consecutive year, to the winner of the general classification in spite of the modification to the rules under which the points were not doubled on any of the summits.
Magnus Cort and Simon Geschke showed plenty of courage and a taste for attacking. The Danish rider was at the forefront from the start on the roads of his home country and, having enjoyed the popularity generated by the Polka Dot Jersey, he sustained his momentum on French soil, on flat stages punctuated with third or fourth category slopes, just like his countryman Michael Mørkøv ten years previously. Yet, unlike the current Madison Olympic Champion, he kept hold of his tunic on the Planche des Belles Filles before losing it when the race got its teeth into the Alps. Simon Geschke, also thanks to a long breakaway, took possession of it in Châtel and held on to it as best as he could, sometimes benefitting from a variety of other riders grabbing the points on offer.
In the end, Jonas Vingegaard only moved in front of him thanks to his victory at Hautacam (on stage 18). Geschke was also under threat from Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogačar who could have equally taken the tunic from him in the case of a stage win, but as the second placed rider in the mountain classification behind the Yellow Jersey, the German rider from the Cofidis team was able to ride along the Champs-Élysées with the Polka Dots on his back. Symbolically, with the consent of the pack in recognition of his efforts, he was allowed to add the last point on offer at the Pavé des Gardes on entering Paris to his points total (65, seven less than Vingegaard). For the third year running,
Pogačar won the best young rider classification and will again be eligible to compete in it next year. It should be pointed out that 25-year-old Vingegaard, who wore the White Jersey last year as runner-up to the Slovene, has left the under-26 category by a whisker: had he been born three weeks later, the Danish rider would have won the three same jerseys as Pogačar in 2020 and 2021.
The team classification, another historic prize on the Tour de France, went to the Ineos Grenadiers who ran a race befitting the style of Movistar: formerly favourites for the Yellow Jersey, the team saw a young rider (Tom Pidcock) score a stage victory and put a veteran rider (Geraint Thomas) in the final top three, all the while dominating, from stage 5 onwards, the team classification, which allows its leaders to wear yellow helmets and race numbers, if not the Yellow Jersey.
The super combative rider on the 109th Tour de France was not up for discussion, because Wout van Aert was unanimously elected by the jury, including the public via the social networks.
Stages: celebrations for the Benelux countries and Denmark
The three countries that make up Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) had not each won at least one stage on the same Tour de France since the 1966 edition, but now these three traditional nations in the event’s glorious history have well and truly reacquainted themselves with success in terms of stage wins: nine out of twenty-one!
In the end, the Belgians enjoyed the lions share with six victories, by means of three different riders: the unexpected Yves Lampaert, the very expected Wout van Aert and a rider from whom perhaps more was expected, as he had experienced so many disappointments before also finding the way to a Tour triumph. Yet Jasper Philipsen is only 24 years old and is following in the footsteps of Tom Boonen, his childhood idol, who won two stages on the Tour including the finale on the Champs-Élysées at the same age. The two sprints contested in Denmark went one apiece to the two Dutch sprinters involved in the terrible accident at the 2020 Tour of Poland, with Dylan Groenewegen and Fabio Jakobsen winning in Nyborg and Sonderborg respectively.
Thanks to a long breakaway through the mountains, Luxembourger Bob Jungels completed the picture and saved the Tour for his team AG2R-Citroën.
Four Danish victories is a first and is proof that the encouragements of their countrymen and countrywomen paid off. In the case of Magnus Cort Nielsen and Mads Pedersen, their triumphs were a reward for self-sacrifice whilst Jonas Vingegaard’s consecration boasts the distinctive feature of him being the first overall Tour winner since Vincenzo Nibali (in 2014) to win in both the Alps (on the Col du Granon) and the Pyrenees (at Hautacam).
Self-sacrifice is also a virtue found in cyclists from the other side of the world who were not expected to win at the start of the race: Australian Simon Clarke, on the cobbles in northern France, and Canadian Hugo Houle are examples of riders who never gave up when times got hard. The same can be said for Michael Matthews, who won the Green Jersey in 2017 and jumped back into the spotlight in Mende thanks to an immense solo effort, which is rare from a sprinter.
Christophe Laporte saved the host country’s honour in Cahors, but the youngest winner came from the other side of the Channel: there is no doubt that 22-year-old English rider Tom Pidcock, following his surge up the Alpe d’Huez, will also leave his mark on forthcoming Tours and has a bright future ahead of him.