Tour de France 2022: 10 best riders as Jonas Vingegaard misses out on top spot - Blazin’ Saddles
Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard was a fitting winner of a Tour de France that started in Copenhagen – but was the 25-year-old even the best rider in the race? With the dust now settled on the Champs-Elysees, Felix Lowe takes a look back at an intense three weeks and picks out the best riders of a pulsating 109th edition of the world’s biggest bike race.
‘Wow’ – Vingegaard allows Pogacar to catch up after crash in ‘incredible’ gesture
A Tour de France of high intensity where each stage was passionately fought from the gun concluded on Sunday with Jasper Philipsen winning the showpiece finale on the Champs-Elysees while Jumbo-Visma rolled home all smiles to celebrate their yellow, green and polka dot jersey haul.
With an average speed of 42.03kph, the 2022 Tour was the fastest edition in history and the first Tour since 1989 where each of the three podium finishers – Jonas Vingegaard, Tadej Pogacar and Geraint Thomas – had all made the podium on a previous occasion.
A Tour affected by climate change protests as well as a forty-degree heatwave conspired to produce the fewest finishers since 2000 largely due to widespread withdrawals following positive tests for Covid-19. Jumbo-Visma emerged as the most dominant team with six stage wins as well as taking home the yellow, green and polka dot jerseys for the first time since 1969.
In retrospect, the tears that appeared in Vingegaard’s eyes as the Dane became overwhelmed at the Copenhagen presentation acted as the perfect precursor for what unfurled over the three weeks that followed. And without any more ado, let’s take a look at the top 10 riders of the Tour – in reverse order…
10. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
The Slovenian’s bad luck at the Tour continued for a third year running with the unlikely cause being a rogue haybale knocked into the path of Caleb Ewan by a TV motorcycle during the cobblestone stage to Arenberg. If Roglic had to put his own dislocated shoulder back in joint on the side of the road, it would later emerge that those injuries were the least of his worries.
But before Roglic withdrew early from the Tour for the second year running, he was instigator of a series of attacks on the Col du Galibier which contributed to his countryman Tadej Pogacar cracking for the first time in his Tour career. For sacrificing his own chances and riding through the pain barrier, Roglic easily merits a spot in our top 10.
‘Attack, attack, attack!’ – Jumbo-Visma try to crack Pogacar in thriller
9. Simon Geschke (Cofidis)
Imagine being sacked by your boss but told you still had to work for the next few days on zero pay – well, that’s kind of what the bearded German had to do for the remaining three stages of the Tour after conceding the polka dot jersey to Vingegaard on the last major climb of the race.
Needing to get into the break in the final stage in the Pyrenees in order to pick up the requisite points he needed on the Aubisque to safeguard the jersey, Geshke missed the split and was forced to try and bridge over. Even after he hit the wall in Stage 18, favourable circumstances may have seen him stay on top of the KOM standings.
But Vingegaard’s win saw him lose the jersey – although that same win, by cementing the Dane’s grip on yellow, brought about a nightmare scenario whereby Geschke had to wear a reminder of his loss every day to Paris. Most notably, a full skinsuit during the Stage 20 time trial that was just plain cruel. Still, the Cofidis veteran had a fine race and was a constant animator after taking over the jersey from Magnus Cort in Stage 9.
‘Sobbing Geschke sums it up’ – Heartbreak of Cofidis rider crystallises what Tour means
8. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) and Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar)
Neither Wright nor Jorgenson won a stage but, boy, did they try. Both riders featured in at least three long-distance breakaways and overlapped on two occasions – on the stages to Megeve and Saint-Etienne. If the American Jorgenson rode to three top-five finishes, then Britain’s Wright came closest of the two to winning when pushing Mads Pedersen all the way in Stage 13.
Wright was also involved in that plucky counterattack on the road to Cahors, swept up inside the final kilometre by Christophe Laporte. A day later, he took an impressive eighth place in the time trial to underline his good legs and provide definitive proof that he is surely a Grand Tour stage winner in the making.
Both 23-year-olds animated the race for teams which had little joy elsewhere and neither deserves omission over the other – so we will place them both together, side by side, as they were for around 232km of the Tour.
'We were all on our knees' - Wright gets emotional after being told he 'animated' the Tour
7. Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma)
After 38 stages with no joy, the host nation finally got a winner in a rider whose domestique duties alone would have put him in the shop window for inclusion in this alternative GC. The Frenchman was flawless in support of team-mates Roglic, Vingegaard and Wout van Aert, setting up the latter on numerous intermediate sprints while pulling on the front of the peloton or fetching bidons.
That Laporte took a stage – and did so in such devastating fashion on the ramped finish at Cahors – was worthy recompense for one of the most improved riders in the peloton and the sport’s signing of the winter. Teammates Sepp Kuss and Tiesj Benoot both contributed widely to the success of both Vingegaard and Van Aert, but the 29-year-old Laporte gets the nod by virtue of his sealing the deal in Cahors and saving the pride of an entire nation.
‘Phenomenal!’ - Laporte ends French drought with shock Stage 19 win
6. Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)
It would be churlish not to include a rider who many had written off but who emerged as best of the rest in the wake of the two GC monsters atop the pack. After winning in 2018 and finishing runner-up in 2019, 36-year-old Thomas completed his podium set by coming third in 2022.
While he didn’t ever really look in contention, his good humour and tenacity shone through when he punctuated the slugfest between yellow and white with an attack of his own on the climb to Hautacam, and he still had the legs to try an audacious attack on the Champs-Elysees alongside compatriot and team-mate Luke Rowe.
‘I dunno’ – Thomas coy on future as GC rider at Grand Tours
5. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck)
Author of one of the most embarrassing moments of the race when celebrating second place in Calais oblivious to Van Aert’s solo win, Philipsen picked himself back up and gave his Alpecin-Deceuninck team something to smile about following the early withdrawal of their misfiring star rider, Mathieu van der Poel.
By winning on the Champs-Elysees, the 24-year-old also became the only sprinter to win multiple stages on a Tour that offered slim-pickings for the fastmen. An achievement not to be baulked at.
Philipsen destroys field to win Stage 21 in Paris, Vingegaard crowned champion
4. Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost)
With the Tour starting in Copenhagen, Denmark was crying out for a home hero. The moustachioed Cort proved just the man by getting into the breakaway on both road stages in Denmark and taking the race’s first polka dot jersey with gusto (more on that later).
Cort didn’t hold back once the race hit French soil: he continues getting in the day’s break, notching up 534km off the front and cresting the first 11 climbs of the race in pole position – breaking the previous record of seven set by the so-called Eagle of Toledo, Federico Bahamontes.
The Condor of Rønne may have taken a few well-earned days off after his fifth place over the cobbles to Arenberg, but he then returned to the breakaway in Stage 10 to Megeve where he showcased his new climbing legs by fighting back to beat the Australian Nick Schultz in one of the most thrilling finishes of the race.
Who knows what Cort may have gone on to achieve had he not been ruled out ahead of Stage 15 because of a positive Covid test. But he left an indelible print on the race for the two weeks he was on it.
‘Brilliant to see’ – Cort delights Danish crowd in polka dots
3. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)
The two-time champion may have fallen one place short in his bid for a three-peat but Pogacar was one of the animators of the race – a constant attacking presence who did everything with a smile on his face even when knocked out of yellow by his big rival, Vingegaard.
With the exception of the second stage, the 23-year-old did not finish lower than 26th while notching 11 top 10s, six podium finishes and – for the fourth Grand Tour running – a hat-trick of stage wins. After taking the stage to Longwy, his victory in yellow on La Super Planche des Belles Filles felt like a coronation – although that crown fell from his head just days later on the Col du Granon.
Pogacar picked himself up and never threw in the towel – attacking Vingegaard at every opportunity and taking another scalp at Peyragudes in the process. His last-ditch attack in Stage 19 provided another enthralling moment for viewers, as did his little dig on the Champs-Elysees.
If it emerges that the 23-year-old has to ride more conservatively if he wants to turn the tables on Vingegaard in the future, then we can at least rejoice in having seen him light up three Tours now doing it his way: with panache and a smile on his face.
Pogacar ‘already thinking about next year’ – Wiggins
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma)
The former fish packer from Denmark came of age with an all-round tour de force of a performance - beating his main rival tactically and psychologically when they were so evenly matched physically. Vingegaard rode with maturity beyond his years, never panicking when he was in trouble, leaning on his team-mates when necessary, and providing the killer blows when appropriate.
It will be fascinating to see where Vingegaard goes now that he will be a marked man. An enthralling rivalry between him and Pogacar looks set to play out on our TV screens most Julys in the years to come.
Vingegaard wins Stage 18 in Pyrenees as Pogacar finishes distant second
1. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)
You cannot really argue with the yellow jersey’s assessment that the green jersey was “the strongest rider of this race”. It’s so easy to run out of superlatives for Van Aert, so let the stats do the talking: the 27-year-old rode well over 600km in breakaways during a Tour where he won three stages (for the second year running), finished runner-up four times, and third once (that third place after delivering the knock-out blow to team-mate Vingegaard’s biggest rival on the final climb of a stage that is not meant to suit 78km riders of his ilk).
Van Aert won the points classification with 480 points to break Peter Sagan’s modern-day record – and would have no doubt added more had he contested the final intermediate sprint and bunch gallop on the Champs-Elysees, which he elected to sit out not just to allow him to celebrate with his Jumbo-Visma team-mates but to cut his rivals some slack. He also came fifth in the KOM standings and 22nd overall – raising the question of whether he could, one day, become a GC threat himself.
If it means seeing less of Van Aert doing Van Aert things while animating the race, then the Tour will be all the poorer. Let’s allow this prodigious talent to do what he does best: animating, enthralling, winning – all while being arguably the best team-mate anyone could wish for.
So then... can Wout van Aert win yellow?
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