Reassessing the Tour de France on the Final Rest Day

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Photo credit: Michael Steele - Getty Images
Photo credit: Michael Steele - Getty Images

The 2022 Tour de France is now 2/3 finished, and the race’s second rest day is always a time for teams to regroup and figure out how they want to finish out the biggest bike race in the world. Some are in fantastic shape; others have little to show for their efforts, or may be regretting the roster they brought to the race. Here’s a look at the scoreboard so far.

Team Scoreboard

In The Break With a Tailwind

No teams had more riding on the Tour than EF Education First-Easypost, BikeExchange-Jayco, and Israel-Premier Tech. All three are on the relegation bubble, at risk of being unceremoniously bumped from the top-rank WorldTour level to the second division. And all three scored stage wins (two for BikeExchange) that may well have saved their licenses.

Photo credit: THOMAS SAMSON - Getty Images
Photo credit: THOMAS SAMSON - Getty Images

Elsewhere, Trek-Segafredo and Quick-Step—Alpha Vinyl were almost bound to win stages and both have so far, with possibly more to come. While Ag2r-Citroën’s GC aspirations for Ben O’Connor fell apart, Bob Jungels salvaged their Tour with a stunning Stage 9 victory. And finally, even though Mathieu van der Poel completely fizzled with his inexplicable fade, Jasper Philipsen’s Stage 15 win was just the salve Alpecin-Deceuninck needed.

Chasing Hard Behind

Not for lack of trying, Cofidis, Movistar, Bora-Hansgrohe, and Bahrain-Victorious have all struck out so far. Cofidis may not break that 14-year winless streak in the Tour, but if Simon Geschke can manage to hang on to polka dots that’s a decent consolation. Of the other three, it’s entirely likely at least one will get the elusive stage win they’re hunting between stages 16-18. Unfortunately, those are the only options for them as stages 19-21 don't suit their riders. The biggest puzzler is what happened to Bahrain's Matej Mohorič, a double stage winner here last year who's been almost witness-protection-program levels of invisible; he hasn't even gotten in a break yet.

At Risk Of The Time Cut

Photo credit: Alex Broadway - Getty Images
Photo credit: Alex Broadway - Getty Images

Astana, Lotto-Soudal, and TotalEnergies have been almost invisible this Tour. Lotto sprinter Caleb Ewan must be the unluckiest rider in the race, with bad crashes ruining his chances, but the rest of the team bar Andreas Kron has been so inert we want to check them for vitals. Speaking of, Astana has Alexey Lutsenko in an anonymous 12th overall, and the rest of the team is riding like guys who suspect their paychecks may bounce. Which they might. TotalEnergies hasn’t been the breakaway hunters we expected, and Peter Sagan looks like he’s forcing it in the sprints. Literally, as in bouncing off guys like he’s playing hockey. Two-minute minor for roughing, buddy.

Incomplete

It’s odd to put three teams that account for six stage wins, 14 days in yellow, and a suffocating hold on the green jersey in the incomplete file, but that’s exactly where Jumbo-Visma, Ineos Grenadiers, and UAE-Team Emirates stand. For UAE and Jumbo, nothing short of yellow will be a disappointment no matter what kind of brave face the losing team puts on in Paris. After both teams’ leaders have led and showed they’re the best in the race at different points, it all comes down to week three. Wout van Aert’s near-certain green jersey will be an unsatisfying consolation prize for Jumbo if Jonas Vingegaard slips out of yellow, and at UAE, the sheikh (Emirates crown prince Mohammed Bin Zayed) doesn’t pay huge money for second places. As for Ineos, they still have multiple shots at more stage wins and a Tour podium. But not since 2014 has the sport's biggest-budget team failed to win at least one Grand Tour. If they miss out, is that a temporary miss, or the start of a slide?

Revisiting My Pre-Race Predictions

Speaking of performance, let’s put me on the spot here. Before the race, I offered up a number of predictions alongside Whit Yost for what would happen in the Tour. How did I end up so far? Let’s run through them.

I said: Pogačar would win a third Tour

Grade: Incomplete

Right now Pogi has some serious work to do and his team is looking pretty shaky. He’s also racing like a junior who’s always been the strongest in the field and is frustrated to find now that he can’t just boss the other riders around with his legs. He needs to make up nearly two minutes (that final TT will be a banger if he does), and realistically has three chances left to get them. But he’s putting up a fierce fight. The final week of the Tour could be an unforgettable contest.

Photo credit: Michael Steele - Getty Images
Photo credit: Michael Steele - Getty Images

I said: Wout van Aert would win the green jersey

Grade: A

One of the most versatile riders in the sport, van Aert is running away with green: he’s almost 200 points clear of his closest challenger. He’s also a threat to win Stages 19, 20, and 21. So mathematically, this one’s toast unless he is forced to drop out.

I said: Stage 5 would be the wildest day from the first week

Grade: B

The Roubaix stage never disappoints and this one followed form: Primoz Roglič’s crash, Pogačar’s attack, the absolute demolition of O’Connor’s GC hopes, van der Poel’s weird disappearing act, the fracas over EF’s Alberto Bettiol appearing to pull for Pogačar with his teammate Neilson Powless up the road and in reach of yellow. But this is an easy pick, so I'll grade myself on a curve.

I said: Stage 15 would be the most unexpectedly consequential stage

Grade: C

I ended up being right (so far), but not for the right reasons. I was hedging this on heat and crosswinds making a wild day, and only heat showed up. But come Paris, we may yet look back at Stage 15 as the day that tipped the race back to Pogačar. Jumbo opted not to start Primož Roglič, citing his week-one crash injuries. That might have been an understandable choice at the time, but it was revealed 140km later as pure hubris when a crash took out Steven Kruiswijk. In one day, Jumbo lost two hugely important support riders. Why they didn’t try to get Roglič to the rest day at least is a choice that could come back to bite them. Vingegaard himself crashed with Tiesj Benoot, and was isolated at times over the past three days—not hard days on paper—in a way that may foreshadow problems to come.

I said: Stage 11 would be the must-watch mountain stage

Grade: A-

We’re not done yet, so we’ll see if this holds up. But Stage 11 was a wallbanger from start to finish as Jumbo put forth a day-long assault that finally cracked Pogačar in a way we’ve never seen before. From van Aert’s early move in the break to Roglič attacking on the descent of the Col du Telegraphe to force a huge selection and then Vingegaard's searing attack on the final climb, it was one of the best mountain stages of the Tour's last decade, at least.

I said: Matteo Jorgenson would be the most interesting American to watch

Grade: C+

Jorgenson has indeed been a joy to watch in his first Tour, with two top five finishes out of breakaways. I love seeing a guy who's often out of the spotlight on a Spanish team get some attention. But the biggest Yankee-centric story so far was Powless, jumping in the break on the Roubaix stage and coming within seconds of yellow, and then falling just short of a stage win on Alpe d’Huez.

I said: COVID-19 would affect the race

Grade: B

As with the Roubaix stage, this ended up being a fairly easy prediction. Due to changed UCI rules that let teams stay in the race even after two riders test positive, we haven’t seen whole teams withdraw. But COVID has done a number on the pack again, forcing out riders on a half-dozen teams. None has been harder hit than UAE, losing two riders, including top climber George Bennett. A third, Rafal Majka, continues in the race despite a positive test (that’s another of the UCI’s questionable rule changes). COVID may not be done, either. Riders will be tested on the rest day and more dropouts are possible.

The Worst Roster Decisions, Revisited

Photo credit: Alex Broadway - Getty Images
Photo credit: Alex Broadway - Getty Images

I also looked pre-race at what I called the most puzzling roster decisions: riders left off teams or given Tour starts despite scant results. How’d that work out?

I feel pretty good about my calls on roster snubs. Quick-Step’s decision to bring Fabio Jakobsen paid off right away, but he’s been underwhelming since. And on Stage 15, with a reduced bunch sprinting into Carcassonne, I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been had the team brought Mark Cavendish instead. Jakobsen’s Stage 2 win was superb. But there’s no story in the Tour that would have shined brighter than comeback Cav setting the outright record for most-career Tour stage wins.

Elsewhere, Jumbo may be regretting leaving Rohan Dennis at home in favor of Nathan van Hooydonck. The big Belgian is good at his job, but he does one thing: protect Vingegaard on flatter terrain. Dennis is a multi-talented rider who can climb and TT, and with Vingegaard’s climbing support down now to just bruiser van Aert and Sepp Kuss, Jumbo could absolutely use another big engine for the Pyrenees. And no one knows whether Greg van Avermaet’s peerless experience on cobbles would’ve provided the guide that team leader O’Connor needed to survive Stage 5, but the facts on the ground are that Ben had a terrible ride, no thanks to his team (O’Connor rode by himself for big chunks of the stage and was actually the second-best Ag2r rider on the day).

Finally, I thought Israel-Premier Tech’s choice to bring Chris Froome (and give him the team leader start number) was mostly an exercise in nostalgia, honoring a once-great rider who simply never got back to his previous heights post-injury. And true to that, Froome has been mostly anonymous this race, even on the climbs where he won in past years. But his Alpe d’Huez breakaway ride showed there’s some life in him yet, and he’s promised to try again in the Pyrenees. A stage win would be almost as big a comeback story as the Cav-all-time-wins tale that we were robbed of. That one I got wrong.

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