The debates of the Tour: is the podium frozen? Will France win a stage? Van Aert beatable in Saint-Etienne?

Is the podium frozen?

By Christophe Gaudot

With five of the seven out-of-category passes of this Tour de France and two high-altitude finishes, the Alps were the big piece of the 2022 edition. Do you see me coming? Yes, I think that the hierarchy born from the combination of a tricky first week, a very short time and the first three finishes at altitude, will be that of Paris. This is understood without any extra-sporting event (fall or illness) which would put an end to the Tour of Jonas Vingegaard, Tadej Pogacar or Geraint Thomas. I don’t see anyone behind this trio being able, on the pedal, to disrupt the hierarchy.

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I will go even further, I think that the three men will get on the podium in Paris in this order. Pogacar could well regret the Granon stage and this little sin of pride in the Galibier to want to chase Roglic in addition to Vingegaard. I don’t know if he had regained all of his means at Alpe d’Huez but I note on the other hand that he was not able to let go of the Dane.

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) attacks Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) on the climb to Alpe d’Huez, during the 12th stage of the Tour 2022

Credit: Getty Images

With more than two minutes late, he nevertheless has his work cut out to overthrow the Tour. A Tour which could be very tight on the line in Paris but to Vingegaard’s advantage in my opinion. As for Geraint Thomas, his qualities in the time trial should be able to compensate for his possible weaknesses in the mountains. It was said without possible discussion the third man in Alpe.

By Jean-Baptiste Duluc

I’m afraid Christophe is right, at least as far as the first two places are concerned. Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar are the strongest riders of this Tour de France and, despite all his talent, I doubt that the Slovenian will manage to erase the chronometric consequences of his tactical error in the Galibier. However, I would not be so adamant about third place.

With a 9” lead overall and skills in time trials (largely) superior to those of his opponents, Geraint Thomas is the big favorite for 3rd place. But that’s forgetting that we’re barely halfway through the Tour and that at Granon, it was Romain Bardet who finished ahead of the Briton from INEOS Grenadiers, almost half a minute ahead. It is substantial. Admittedly, the Frenchman suffered a heatstroke in Alpe d’Huez, but it could also happen to Thomas in the Pyrenees, where the proposed playing field could correspond to the Habs.

Bardet: “I took a heat stroke in the middle of the Alpe”

Peyragudes? He has already won. The Hautacam stage? Previously, the Col du Spandelles – especially its technical and perilous descent – ​​offered a real opportunity for Bardet to exploit his qualities as a descender. And why not overthrow the leader of INEOS Grenadiers. Is Thomas the favorite for 3rd place? Yes. Is the ranking fixed? I do not believe. The road is still too long to be definitive.

Will we see a French victory on this Tour?

By Jean-Baptiste Duluc

I dare to hope so. Admittedly, time is running out but there are ultimately the stages most conducive to a French success, namely those of transition where the peloton lets the breakaway slip away. Make no mistake: winning on the pedal is not within reach of the French on this Tour, with the possible exception of a Romain Bardet (DSM) in Foix. And even. But the Blues have no chance in the massive sprints, and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) like Bardet seem a step below Vingegaard and Pogacar. Then there are the transition stages.

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Whether towards Mende, Foix or even towards Cahors two days before the finish, we should see the breakaway go to the end. And many French people on the right track. Obviously remains to put it at the bottom, which is not the case since the start when the breakaway is essential (Pinot 3rd in Châtel, Thomas 7th in Megève, no Habs in the good move this Thursday). I can not imagine however that no Habs manage to impose themselves by Paris. Pinot in Foix and Laporte in Cahors seem to me to be three fairly “good” cards to save France from a zero point which has only happened twice (1926, 1999) in the entire history of the Grande Boucle.

By Christophe Gaudot

Hot after the arrival of Tom Pidcock, I really regretted that Thibaut Pinot was not in the breakaway of the day. I think the Franc-Comtois had the double at Alpe d’Huez within shooting range, it was “enough” for him to slip into the shot of the day. A blow that took little time to take shape, without a huge fight. For him, it was a golden opportunity. For the French clan too. And then ? I’m really worried.

Pinot: “What frustrates me the most is not having been able to accompany David further”

The further the Tour progresses, the more its breakaways take on value. Let me explain: with the passage of the first mountain range, many of the leaders have seen their ambitions soar for the overall. So many additional candidates for stage victory. And if they didn’t have the legs to follow the best, they are nonetheless formidable opponents. Tadej Pogacar may also need bonuses at Peyragudes or Hautacam to get back to Vingegaard. In short, the opportunities will be rare and difficult to seize for the Blues.

Who can beat Van Aert in Saint-Etienne?

By Jean-Baptiste Duluc

Despite the green jersey on his shoulders, Wout Van Aert has still not won a single mass sprint on this Tour de France. He didn’t go far at Nyborg as at Sonderorg (2nd) and that won’t prevent him from being the favorite in the capital of Forez. However, if the Belgian were to find himself in a massive arrival, I doubt that he would win, for several reasons.

Already, unlike the other sprinters, he has made a lot of effort over the past two days for his leaders and this could stay in his legs. It may have an exceptional engine, but it is not immune to paying for its efforts. Above all, if we are entitled to a massive sprint in Saint-Etienne, he should find himself faster than him. Maybe Jakobsen or Groenewegen won’t be there given the difficulty of the stage, maybe Ewan won’t find his legs… On the other hand, Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) will be there and, intrinsically, I see faster than Van Aert.

Philipsen believes he has won… But Van Aert has already crossed the line

The stage is difficult but he has already shown that the false flats and climbs do not scare him in this Tour de France, given his stages in Longwy and Lausanne. And, this time, the stage will not end on a bump. But on the flat. The final towards Saint-Etienne is exhausting but without real difficulty. And he can count on a team entirely at his service. That’s why it’s him that I can see raising his arms in Saint-Etienne on Friday. After winning this time.

By Christophe Gaudot

On the pedal? Nobody ! If the tracks of the arrivals in Saint-Etienne vary, they always remain difficult and that of Friday will not derogate from the rule. After an already difficult start to the stage for the big thighs (the Côte de Brié and the Col de Parménie) in the first 80 kilometers, the rest will not be much easier. It will be necessary to climb the Côte de Saint-Romain-en-Gal long enough to eliminate the sprinters who are less comfortable in the bumps (Jakobsen, Groenewegen…).

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And if there were to be people left, the Jumbo-Visma could decide, on the false flat which will lead to the final plateau seven kilometers from the finish, to harden further to favor the designs of Wout van Aert. At the end of a difficult stage and with the last two days in the legs, I don’t see anyone capable of beating him in an almost massive sprint. The form it takes is a strong argument in my opinion.

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