[Underneath article was written before the start of the Tour de France and has not been updated]
His 2020 win came as a suprise. Jumbo-Visma successfully challenged Ineos’ dominance that year, and the yellow train was in control during the whole race. That is, until the time trial at the Planche des Belles Filles on the penultimate day, where Pogacar ran away with the yellow jersey after an incredible performance.
His 2021 triumph came as no surprise whatsoever. Being the title defender, Pogacar coped very well with the pressure that comes with it. He struck a massive blow in Le Grand-Bornand on the 8th stage. From then on it was obvious who would win La Grande Boucle for the second year in a row. It was Pogi, and Pogi only.
Sure, Roglic was out of contention by then after an early crash, but still. Pogacar’s dominant performance was staggering. And he continued like that, winning Il Lombardia, the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Slovenia with apparent ease. Almost playful. It raises the question:
Who could dislodge Pogacar as long as he stays on his bike this July? Yes, Roglic was successful in Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné. But in the Race to the Sun he would not have won if Van Aert wasn’t there on superb domestique duty, while Jonas Vingegaard helped him bring home the bacon in the Dauphiné. And, looking at their faces, the Dane was in a much happier place when the two destroyed the Plateau de Solaison climbing record on the last day of action.
That last observation could be the key to the 2022 Tour de France. It will not be one rider who’ll be able to challenge Pogacar, it should be a team effort. Strength in numbers, both for Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers.
What to expect
And yes, given the performances during the build-up to the Tour de France, Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma have the strongest teams. On the other hand, this strength can easily turn into a culprit of intrateam rivalry. Daniel Felipe Martínez won the Tour of the Basque Country and Geraint Thomas the Tour de Suisse, while Adam Yates was meant to be the leader in that race before he dropped out with a positive COVID-19 test. Who’ll be at the helm during the Tour de France? Will it indeed be strength in numbers, or weakening through numbers?
Same story for Jumbo-Visma. Primoz Roglic was always their solo leader, but he seems to be not as dominant as in previous years. And with Jonas Vingegaard finishing as La Grand Boucle’s runner-up last year – and looking stronger at the Dauphiné – and super-domestique Wout van Aert nurturing green jersey ambitions, the dynamics could change. Once again, strength in numbers, or…?
UAE Emirates’ mission is clear: winning the Tour de France for the third consecutive year with Tadej Pogacar.
One last word for Aleksandr Vlasov. The Russian has been on fire since he moved to BORA hansgrohe this winter. He won the Tour of Valencia, came out on top at the Tour of Romandie, and was lying in pole position to win the Tour de Suisses when he pulled out with a positive COVID-19 test. Obviously, his Tour de France preparations took a hit and will hope to recover in time for the start of the Tour de France in Copenhagen. GC riders should be on form from day one, as the first stage is an ITT.
GC Favourites Tour de France 2022
***** Tadej Pogacar, Primoz Roglic
**** Jonas Vingegaard, Aleksandr Vlasov, Adam Yates
*** Ben O’Connor, Daniel Felipe Martínez, Romain Bardet
** Geraint Thomas, David Gaudu, Enric Mas, Damiano Caruso
* Jack Haig, Rigoberto Uran, Nairo Quintana, Alexey Lutsenko