For the first time since 2018, the four distinctive jerseys of the Tour de France went to four different riders. Every stage of the 2023 edition shaped the battles that put Jonas Vingegaard in yellow, Tadej Pogačar in white —for the very last time—, Jasper Philipsen in green and Giulio Ciccone in the polka dots. Belgium trounced the other nations in the fight for most stage wins and might have even picked up more if Victor Campenaerts, the most combative rider of the race, had cracked the winning code. Jumbo–Visma won the team classification for the first time in its 40th Tour start under various avatars.
Podium: a duel and brothers in arms
The clash between Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar was the main event of the 2023 Tour. Yet it was a different duo that made the headlines early on, as the Yates twins scored a 1-2 in the opening stage in Bilbao, with Adam taking the stage and the yellow jersey. The British rider, who had already pulled on the coveted garment in 2020, savoured a four-day stint in yellow before surrendering the lead to Jai Hindley. Racing in his Tour de France debut, the 2022 Giro champion secured both the stage win in Laruns and the yellow jersey, but he only held it for a day before the start of the Jonas Vingegaard festival. The Dane enjoyed the longest streak in the golden fleece since Bernard Hinault in 1981. The stage to Cauterets also ensconced Tadej Pogačar as the only man who could take the fight to Vingegaard, with a yawning abyss soon opening up between the two stars and the best of the rest. Hindley definitely looked the part of a podium finisher, but a crash in the stage to Morzine loosened his grip on third place. The young Spaniard Carlos Rodríguez surged in the Haute-Savoie resort town to position himself as a podium contender with, perhaps, even loftier ambitions in the future. Promoted to Ineos leader after this flash of talent, he struggled a bit in the Combloux time trial and saw Adam Yates snatch his provisional podium spot. Pogačar's most trusted lieutenant proved to be unshakeable in his defence of third place, but he also pulled off another family exploit in the stage to Le Markstein, where Simon climbed to a career-best overall finish in fourth place. Twins always stick together!
White jersey: a second skin for Pogačar
Tadej Pogačar has been perched at the top of the best young rider's classification since 11 September 2020, when stage 13 of that edition was decided at the top of the Puy Mary. Of course, he was also clad in yellow in his two victorious campaigns in 2020 and 2021, but the white jersey has been his most common outfit in the 84 days he has spent in the Tour so far in his young career. The Slovenian picked up enough time bonuses on the opening day in Bilbao to vault to the top of the category for riders under 25 and never looked back, although his debacle in the stage to Courchevel allowed the 22-year-old Carlos Rodríguez to move within 4′26″. Building on his nigh-unbreakable record of 75 distinctive jerseys worn so far, Pogačar will finally be racing as a grown-up next year!
Green jersey: Philipsen à la belge
In the year marking the 70th anniversary of the green jersey, Jasper Philipsen claimed the points classification the old-fashioned way. In contrast with Peter Sagan, Michael Matthews and Wout van Aert, who have experimented with various methods to win the points classification, such as chasing intermediate sprints, the Alpecin–Deceuninck resorted to a tried-and-tested approach: hoovering up mass sprint victories. Led out by Mathieu van der Poel, he quickly laid down the law in the mad dashes to the line. His triumph in Bayonne was the first of many, as the withdrawals of would-be rivals such as Mark Cavendish, Fabio Jakobsen, Caleb Ewan and Phil Bauhaus cleared his path to glory. Mads Pedersen, who beat him fair and square in Limoges, and to a lesser extent Bryan Coquard did what they could, but the fastest man of the 2023 edition was in a league of his own. Indeed, only Victor Lafay managed to steal his thunder for a short time on the road to Bayonne, allowing the Frenchman to wear the green jersey for two days. When all was said and done, "Jasper the Master" wrapped up the 21st Belgian victory in the points classification with 119 points to his name.
Polka-dot jersey: a job for a professional
Neilson Powless, a credible contender for the polka-dot jersey, had his time in the sun in the first two thirds of the Tour, building his lead on up small hauls of points on minor climbs. The American calculated his energy expenditure to wear the best climber's jersey for 12 stages, with a one-day hiatus in which Felix Gall pulled ahead by a hair's width. However, it all became a lost cause when Giulio Ciccone finally took the gloves off. The Lidl–Trek rider, who had already conquered the mountains classification in the 2019 Giro and this year's Critérium du Dauphiné, had more staying power on long ascents. He started to tip the scales in the stage to Morzine, followed by solid performances in Saint-Gervais and at Courchevel, where he came up short in the battle for the stage win with Felix Gall. The young Austrian climber and Jonas Vingegaard spelled double trouble for Ciccone in the closing stages of the race, but he sealed the deal in the stage to Le Markstein, taking top points on the Col de la Schlucht to become the first Italian winner of the polka-dot jersey since Claudio Chiappucci scored a brace in 1991 and 1992.
Stages: the Spanish Reconquista
Jasper Philipsen's dominance in the sprints did the heavy lifting for Belgium's comfortable win on the medal table, with his young countryman Jordi Meeus adding a touch of prestige with his victory on the Champs-Élysées. However, with a total of 17 different stage winners, the 2023 honour roll looks like a miniature United Nations, including a new taste of glory for Canada (with Michael Woods on the Puy de Dôme), Austria (courtesy of Felix Gall at Courchevel) and Poland (thanks to Michał Kwiatkowski on the Grand Colombier).
Behind Belgium, there were three countries with three stage wins to their names: Slovenia, with Tadej Pogačar and Matej Mohorič, no strangers to success; Denmark, with Kasper Asgreen, who clinched his maiden win, as well as Jonas Vingegaard and Mads Pedersen; and Spain, which was expected to shine as early as the first few stages in the Basque Country but hit the jackpot a bit later. Pello Bilbao claimed his first Tour win in Issoire to end a 99-stage drought for the country of Contador and Indurain. Ion Izagirre kept it up with a triumph in Belleville-en-Beaujolais, shortly before Carlos Rodríguez laid down a marker for the future in Morzine. The rise of the young Andalusian talent makes it seem unlikely that Spain will have to wait another 99 stages for its next win.
Meanwhile, on the home front, Victor Lafay's tour de force in San Sebastián put a smile back on the faces of the Cofidis clan after 15 years in the desert, but the hype around David Gaudu's podium prospects came to naught, while Romain Bardet crashed out of the Tour in stage 14. David Gaudu, Guillaume Martin and Thibaut Pinot clustered together in ninth, tenth and eleventh place overall. As a consolation prize, the Groupama–FDJ rider, who will be retiring at the end of the season, won over the hearts of spectators and TV viewers in France and beyond with his solo adventure in the stage to Le Markstein. They say the French tend to romanticise honourable defeats… and "Tibopino" will always be a fan favourite!
Teams: the black and yellow swarm
Shining in yellow at the top of the Tour de France hierarchy, there can only be one man, and that man has been Jonas Vingegaard for two years. But the conquests of the young Dane have illustrated the increasingly significant importance of the cycling collective, with a Jumbo-Visma team full of versatile and complementary talents to launch the leader to glory. Tiesj Benoot, Wilco Kelderman, Sepp Kuss, Christophe Laporte, Wout van Aert, Dylan van Baarle and Nathan Van Hooydonck: Vingegaard was accompanied by an impressive swarm of bees whose ferocity on all terrains also leaves its mark in the records. Supporting their leader from the Grand Départ in Bilbao, the Jumbo-Visma arrived in Paris as winners of the team classification, for the first time in the history of the Dutch squad. Richard Plugge's men finished ahead of UAE Team Emirates and Bahrain Victorious to succeed the Ineos Grenadiers.
Combativity: Super Campi!
So many battles on the Basque, Navarrese and French roads during the three weeks of the Tour! The intensity rarely dropped and it took loads of determination as well as power and endurance to stand out among the countless attacks that gave life to the race. In this field, Victor Campenaerts is an outstanding leader. The former time trial specialist, who held the hour record from 2019 to 2022, now uses his talents for long range attacks, on the plain as well as in the mountains. And he seems to never tire! With more than 600 kilometres at the forefront, the “Super combatif” of the Tour 2023 won the Century 21 Prize for combativity in two consecutive stages (18 and 19), like Wout van Aert at the start of the event (5 and 6), an unprecedented performance since… Peter Sagan in 2015. It was more than necessary to resist the Thibaut Pinot mania.
Best teammates: Van Aert, Kuss and Skjelmose honored
The role of “domestique” is not ungrateful and the best teammates of the Tour have shown that it calls for a prize dedicated to these riders who selflessly ride as strong as possible for their companions. From the first week, Wout van Aert showed the full extent of his talents, especially when he accompanied Jonas Vingegaard’s first attacks in the Pyrenees. The jury and the public named the Belgian all rounder the winner of the first prize for best team member sponsored by the Hauts-de-Seine department. It was then the American super climber Sepp Kuss who took over to support the Maillot Jaune in the Jura and the approach to the Alps. Finally, Mattias Skjelmose fought on all terrains to support his leaders Mads Pedersen and Giulio Ciccone. The young Dane is a leader in the making... But his work as a teammate already makes him a champion.