July 17, 2022
Tour de France 2022 – Stage 15 – Rodez – Carcassonne : 202,5 km
For three weeks of the year cycling fans put their bikes away and root themselves to their sofas,
July 17, 2022
Tour de France 2022 – Stage 15 – Rodez – Carcassonne : 202,5 km
For three weeks of the year cycling fans put their bikes away and root themselves to their sofas, eyes fixed on their television screens as they watch one of the greatest races of the season play out in front of them. We are, of course, talking about the Tour de France – the one bicycle race that nearly everyone on planet Earth has heard of. This three-week race is regarded by many as one of the toughest sporting events in the world. With 21 gruelling stages to complete over a 23-day period, adding up to around 3,500km in total, the Tour de France is a race of pure endurance. The winner isn’t necessarily the strongest rider, but rather the one who can survive the most suffering, day after day. Five-time winner of the Tour, Bernard Hinault, summed up just what it takes to win this great race: “You can’t win without suffering. Whether it’s in the mountains or in a time-trial, you have to spare no effort. You may feel drained at the finish, but the joy of winning helps you forget everything.” The 2022 route, which is due to start in Copenhagen, Denmark, and finish in Paris, France, is headlined by six summit finishes, two individual time trials and a high-mountain stage that will see the riders grovel their way to the the 2,413m-high summit of the Col du Granon. The rest of the route features hilly stages aplenty, but only a couple of flat stages for the fastmen. In place of sprinting opportunities this year, the organisers have opted for dynamic stages that will suit a wide array of riders and promote aggressive and entertaining racing.
He had to brake once, then again as he wove his way through the sprint in the final 200 metres, but with a powerful burst of speed, Jasper Philipsen blazed to his first Tour de France stage victory on a searing hot day in Carcassonne.
The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider came from behind as Trek-Segafredo’s Mads Pedersen opened up the sprint, then threw himself on the inside of the final bend to power past and edge out green jersey holder Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) as Pedersen faded to third.
After making the top three eight times in Tour de France sprints but never managing to take a win until today, Philipsen was understandably emotional in the post-race interview.
“It makes it super unbelievable,” he said of his previous misses. “I know what losing is like in the Tour de France. I was close many many times. That it worked out today is incredible. I can’t believe it.
“I felt Wout was coming close but I also knew the finish line from last year. We got boxed in a little bit before the final corner and I knew it was not long anymore after the last corner. I knew I had to make up some positions. It was good that I could pass Mads.”
Alpecin-Deceuninck had none of the luck of 2021 when Mathieu van der Poel won a stage and led the race in the first week. Van der Poel struggled after a tough Giro d’Italia and dropped out on stage 11.
“It’s been massive search for this victory,” Philipsen said. “We’ve worked really hard for it. I’m super proud we can finally finish it off after a tough Tour. We had to wait til stage 15 with the team but everyone still believed it was possible. I’m super happy.
“I knew I had good legs but we just had to wait until the right moment and the right opportunity and today was the day.”
It was an imperfect day for Jumbo-Visma, however, as race leader Jonas Vingegaard lost Primož Roglič before the start then another strong climber Steven Kruijswijk crashed out mid-stage just days before the race heads in to the Pyrenees.
Vingegaard also crashed but got back in the race to keep his 2:22 lead over Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), while Geraint Thomas remains in third at 2:43.
The Dane said his injuries were limited to a some road rash.
“Today was not the best day for us,” Vingegaard said. “Steven abandoned the race and Teisj and I crashed, so not the best day. I’m okay and I hope that Tiesj is okay too. It’s a bad day but can happen.”
How it unfolded
With temperatures already at 32°C at the start in Rodez, the peloton knew they faced another hot day in the saddle for the 202.5km ride south to Carcassonne via the sunflower and wheat fields of the Occitanie region of southwest France.
The riders wore ice vests, ice packs on their necks and made sure to hydrate before and during the race. Feeding was allowed right from the start and the time limit was extended but nobody called for the stage to be reduced. C’est le Tour and the show must go on.
Indeed, the attacks came as soon as the flag dropped and yet again Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) was there despite the team having decided to pull Primož Roglič from the race due to his crash injuries. Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) and Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) were the other non-starters, both testing positive for COVID-19 before stage 15.
Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mikkel Honoré (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) joined Van Aert and with the peloton preferring to let them go, the breakaway was formed quickly. They opened a lead of 1:30 before BikeExchange-Jayco and Alpecin-Deceuninck moved to the front to keep them in check.
When the Jumbo-Visma car managed to pass the peloton and join Van Aert after 30km, they ordered their man to ease up and drop back; there was no tactical need for him to ride up front in such a small group. Van Aert did not seem too happy but followed orders, leaving Honoré and Politt to ride on as a pair.
Despite temperatures reaching 37°C on the open roads, the two bravely pressed on but the peloton kept them in check at around 2:00. Honoré had clearly been given the freedom to attack. Fabio Jakobsen’s leadout man Michael Mørkøv was dropped early in the stage and faced a personal battle for survival. He would finish the stage but miss the time limit.
The central 100km of the stage was a game of cat and mouse between Honoré and Politt and the peloton. The two never eased up but neither did the peloton, with Chris Juul-Jensen doing a lot of pace work.
The photographers had time to take their traditional sunflower shots of the peloton as the riders grabbed bidons and domestiques took repeated trips to their team cars for more ice.
As France burned in the heat, protesters again tried to disrupt the Tour de France to highlight their cause. However, race police quickly dragged them off the road and Honoré and Politt rode on, the peloton, too.
The relaxed atmosphere ended with 64km to go. The protests seemed to have raised the tension and Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) went down hard in a sudden crash on a straight section of road.
Van Aert stopped to help him but the Dutch rider was hurt. The race went on without him and Kruijswijk was loaded into an ambulance, the crowds applauding him. His team later said he had suffered a dislocated shoulder.
Just seven kilometres later Jumbo-Visma suffered another crash, this time Vingegaard went down with Tiesj Benoot. The race leader landed on his left shoulder and side but was not seriously hurt and got up to chase. Vingegaard suffered road rash but it could have been much worse.
There was a moment of panic at Jumbo-Visma as Vingegaard got a bike change but he soon joined several teammates and returned to the peloton before the intermediate sprint and the Côte des Cammazes climb.
With the race definitely ‘on’, the other riders waited for Vingegaard. Honoré led Politt through the intermediate sprint, with Van Aert ever vigilant and up front to finish third and score more points for his green jersey.
The two leaders were caught on the Côte des Cammazes climb, with Trek-Segafredo riding a hard pace that immediately hurt the sprinters.
Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-EasyPost) tried to inspire an attack but Trek-Segafredo poured on the pressure on the climb, bringing back Rusch and stringing out the peloton to distance some sprint rivals. Their efforts succeeded in dislodging Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExhchange-Jayco) and Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), among others.
As they neared the summit of the category 3 climb, Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels-KTM) and Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) came over the top of the Trek-Segafredo train and danced away to take the mountain points and try to forge out a winning gap.
However, in the long, gradual descent over the next 20km, the Groenewegen group steadily clawed their way back to the peloton.
The two leaders continued to forge on as the reduced peloton waited until the last to nail back the 20-second advantage. With 5km to go, the duo were in sight on an arrow-straight stretch of road and had the gap down to 10 seconds. Thomas took off in a desperate attempt to foil the sprinters.
But all of Thomas’ efforts came to nought as the peloton swept past him under the red kite signifying 1km to go.
Trek-Segafredo launched a powerful lead-out for Pedersen but he couldn’t hold off the surge from Van Aert, while Philipsen found another gear to power past them both.