125km to go: The long descent to Saint-Michel de Maurienne begins, and Tom Pidcock is showing off his skills in flying down the mountain, taking 20 seconds on the pack.
130km to go: Chris Froome, you say? He’s set off in front of the peloton, and fancies doing something. They let him go, as he is some way down the GC. Perez makes it to the summit of the Galibier, of which the riders will not be sad to see the last of for another year. He goes clear 22 seconds of the rest. The bunch go over the top, and there’s signs that a couple of UAE teammates of Pogacar were struggling, and that’s bad news for him. Jumbo-Visma seem to have the race under control. It’s been pretty calm out there.
135km to go: Meintjes has dropped Zimmerman, and joins Ciccone as the chase builds up. Jumbo-Visma are sending their climbers up the road, including Sepp Kuss and Primoz Roglic, and in the same group there’s Tom Pidcock and a few others in this third group. Plans are afoot, though it’s not quite clear what they might be. Van Aert leads the main field, as per usual, Jumbo-Visma in formation, and Thibaut Pinot’s hopes of staging a break are shut down for now. Anthony Perez, of Cofidis, a Frenchman, goes off at the front of the break. It’s Bastille Day, and he probably wants la famille to see him in action. He builds up a lead of 18 seconds, so quite a dig.
140km to go: Giulio Ciccone, the Trek-Segafredo rider, sets off after that leading group, who have opened up a bit more of an advantage but at 1’ 28” is not much. Ciccone has 46’ to make up. There’s still 8km to climb, so let’s see how it shakes out. It looks hot, that summer rain long forgotten. Louis Meintjes and Georg Zimmermann from Intermarche are chasing down, too, and that would make a trio within that group, as Kobe Goossens is up there.
145km to go: Up the Galibier they continue, where they spent much of Wednesday climbing up. The organisers have shown little mercy. Those three flat days in Denmark feel like a long time ago. The leading group’s advantage, once around two minutes, starts to drop rapidly. It’s a fearsome climb but the peloton, starting to split off at the back, is motoring along, with Van Aert leading them, and Vingegaard covered up but occasionally getting out of the saddle.
152km to go: Guy Hornsby gets in touch: “What a day it was yesterday. That last 5km blew the race apart. It was a perfect tactical day for Jumbo and a dismal one for an already depleted UAE. As for Pog, you have to think others will feel they can attack him now. But Pogacar is also such a strong rider he’ll surely have something to come. There’s a really good analysis on the Cycling Podcast saying Pog was tactically a bit naive, such as chasing Roglic when there’s no need and also perhaps putting in attacks at the end of stages but was it worth it?
“But it’s ok, just Alpe D’Huez today. This could get very messy. Or it could turn on its head. Days like yesterday really leave things so exciting.”
It’s hotting up, and there’s a chase of the leaders from a small group but Wout van Aert makes his way to pick up the minor points on offer from an intermediate sprint that otherwise has little to do with the rest of the standings. Kobe Goossens took first position ahead of Oliveira, and Van Aert gains seventh by blazing away from the peloton to collect seventh.
155km to go: An early prang, suggesting that they are going at quite a lick. Yves Lampaert is one of those involved, as is Steven Kruijswijk. Nothing too heavy, but some running repairs are required. Powless stays up front, and a group joins him: Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Kobe Goossens (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert), Matis Louvel (Arkea-Samsic) and Sebastian Schonberger (B&B Hotels-KTM).
160km to go: The first checkpoint of the day will be Le Monêtier-les-Bains , where today’s intermediate sprint takes place, only 11km or so into the stage, reason being that the rest of it is uphill and down dale.
And away we go!
The stage begins with a steep climb, and as Christian Prudhomme waves them away, Warren Barguill makes an early show before Nelson Powless goes off on his own. And makes instant headway, the American. Those in the peloton won’t be thanking him for these early efforts. Chris Froome looks to be up the front of the pack. Remember him?
As they near the départ réel in Briancon, a reminder of just how up and down the stage will be. There’s a bit of rain around, something we could do with in London.
Richard Moore, in Étape, wrote the following on this famous win for the Colombian.
Herrera remains understated, modest and humble; on the other hand Hector Urrego, who commented on his victory at l’Alpe d’Huez, not so much. He can recall it as though it happened yesterday. Talking about it now inspires the same passion and emotions. He slips into the present tense as he recalls Lucho’s great victory, as though reliving it: ‘In the last three kilometres, Herrera goes solo. Is not possible in the world of cycling, but is true! Herrera goes to the victory with the Colombian flag on his jersey! Millions in Colombia and around the world see the birth of a new champion from Colombia, South America. We’re happy! We’re the best in this moment!’
Pogacar, who not long before he cracked was mugging for the camera and miming the eating of his food supplies, said the following at the finish line:
Maybe I was under-fuelled today or I just had a bad day. Everyone always has a bad day [sometimes]. I felt good until the final climb but it’s far from finished, the Tour. I got attacked by Jumbo-Visma. They played it well today [and] tactically they did a really good job. In the last climb it was difficult, but we will see tomorrow. I want revenge. The Tour is not over.
What did Bernard Hinault do the next day after he lost the yellow jersey to Greg Lemond in 1986? He went on the attack on a stage up to Alpe D’Huez, and tried to take the time back. He ended up with Lemond for company as they went over the summit together in one of the famous images of Le Tour.
Already busy at the summit finish, according to Nico Roche.
From 2015, an interactive guide to riding up Alpe d’Huez.
Jeremy Whittle was there to witness history on Wednesday.
“I was a bit surprised that the time gaps were this big,” Vingegaard said after winning the stage. “On the other hand, it was also a super-hot stage. We attacked on the Télégraphe and again on the Galibier, so we really had a plan to make the race hard today. I think the harder it is, the bigger the gaps will be at the end, and I think that was in my advantage.”
But the 25-year-old Dane said that when he attacked he didn’t know Pogacar was struggling. “No, but I took the chance. I didn’t know if he was suffering, but they told me on the radio that it was steeper at five kilometres to go, and I was thinking: ‘Either they make it hard, or I try to attack.’ So that’s what I did.”
Wednesday was one of those days that will live on in Tour lore. The late, great Richard Moore wrote a brilliant book on key stages in Le Tour – Étape – in 2014, and were Richard able to pen a follow-up, then surely the cracking of Tadej Pogacar on the Col du Granon would have been included. The same climb once cracked Bernard Hinault, after all, though that was at the end of his career, with five Tours already in the bag, rather than the two Pogacar has collected. He is 23, but the sight of him at the summit yesterday was one of agony, at the effort involved and the probable loss of the Tour to Jonas Vingegaard.
To follow? Only Alpe d’Huez, the most famous summit finish in cycling. It is 13.9km long, bridging 1118 vertical metres with an average gradient of 8% and to win the stage is to join one of the sport’s immortals, those sweeping yet tight hairpin bends, the roads full of tifosi going absolutely bananas. The last winner here was Geraint Thomas in 2018, when he ended up winning the whole Tour. So, four long years since the race visited l’Alpe, and Thomas, in fine form this year, may be in with a chance of being a double winner. Only Gianni Bugno, Marco Pantani, Peter Hinnen and Hennie Cooper have managed that. This is the 70th anniversary of Le Tour’s first visit here, when the winner was Fausto Coppi.
For Pogacar, a chance for instant redemption. For Vingegaard, the chance to cement his status.
From William Fotheringham’s pre-Tour guide:
Cruelly, the organisers make the riders go back up the Galibier the way they came over less than 24 hours earlier, before crossing the Croix de Fer to tackle L’Alpe D’Huez for the first time since 2018. That year’s winner, Geraint Thomas, looks to be back to his best form; today, the chances are the victor will come from an early break, and given it’s Bastille Day all France will be rooting for Pinot or Romain Bardet.
- 1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Jumbo-Visma) 41hrs 29mins 59secs
- 2. Romain Bardet (Fra/DSM +2mins 16secs
- 3. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) +2mins 22secs
- 4. Geraint Thomas (GB/Ineos Grenadiers) +2mins 26secs
- 5. Nairo Quintana (Col/Arkea Samsic) +2mins 37secs
- 6. Adam Yates (GB/Ineos Grenadiers) +3mins 06secs
- 7. David Gaudu (Fra/Groupama-FDJ) +3mins 13secs
- 8. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus/Bora-Hansgrohe) +7mins 23secs
- 9. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz/Astana) +8mins 07secs
- 10. Enric Mas (Spa/Movistar) +9mins 29secs