Tour de France preview: Pogacar leads the way once again
By Victor Mather
The Tour de France is preparing to roll out of the starting gate Friday, with this year’s race set to feature a dominant young champion, a climb up the famous Alpe d’Huez and the debut of a multistage women’s race after the men’s event concludes.
Here is what we know about this year’s edition:
How can I watch?
USA Network will show most of the stages in the United States, with NBC jumping in for Stage 2 — the first mass-start road stage Saturday — and the final two stages. Peacock will stream every stage of the race.
Don’t live in the United States? Other networks with rights to the race include ITV in Britain, SBS in Australia, FloBikes in Canada, France TV in France, ARD in Germany. For those from Slovenia, the home country of Tour favorite Tadej Pogacar and his countryman and rival Primoz Roglic, click over to RTV.
Where does this year’s race go?
The 2022 Tour is resuming one of its modern traditions by starting in a country other than France. This year, for the first time, that country is Denmark, which will host the first stage: an 8-mile time trial through the heart of Copenhagen that, yes, includes a pass by the Little Mermaid statue. (No, not the arriviste one, the original.) The time trial starts at 10 a.m. Eastern on Friday, a day earlier than usual for travel reasons. Saturday and Sunday’s flat stages are in Denmark as well.
Stage 5 on Wednesday will throw riders their first curveball, with stretches of cobblestone roads that they must negotiate. The last time the Tour attempted that, there were crashes and injuries aplenty.
After a quick visit to Belgium, another Tour country that is not France, the race will begin in earnest in the Alps (both French and Swiss), starting July 8.
The marquee stage will be July 14 — Bastille Day, no coincidence — when the riders traverse the picturesque and punishing 21 switchbacks of Alpe d’Huez for the first time in four years. Before they even get to the hilltop finish at Alpe d’Huez, though, they will have climbed mountains whose names strike fear into the hearts of even the hardiest professional cyclists: the Col du Galibier (for the second time in two days) and the Col de la Croix de Fer.
The final key stages will be July 20 and 21 in the Pyrenees, including a climb of the Col d’Aubisque and a stage-ending ascent to the ski resort of Hautacam. If the race is still in the balance, it will be decided by a 25-mile time trial finishing in Rocamadour on July 23. The final day will be the essentially ceremonial procession on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 24.
Who are the favorites for the leader’s yellow jersey?
Pogacar is the odds-on favorite to make it three in a row. Riding for UAE Team Emirates, he won two shorter tours earlier in the season as well as a big one-day race in Italy and shows no signs of slipping. And he’s still only 23.
His main rival should again be Roglic, who won an important warm-up tour, the Critérium du Dauphiné, and at age 32 may be starting to run out of chances to win the big one.
Last year’s runner-up, Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark, has to be considered a contender, too, especially if Roglic, his teammate on the Jumbo-Visma squad, falters. Vingegaard finished second to Roglic in this year’s Dauphiné.
What about the other jerseys?
At the same time he was winning the past two yellow jerseys, Pogacar was winning the polka dot jersey as best climber as well. This prize is more commonly won by a climbing specialist, however, and two Frenchmen, Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet, the 2019 winner, are candidates this time around.
Last year’s winner of the green jersey — which goes to the race’s best sprinter — was veteran Mark Cavendish of Britain. But with Cavendish left off his Quick Step team this year, Wout van Aert of Belgium becomes the clear favorite in that particular side competition.
Pogacar is amazingly still not only young enough to win the white jersey for best young rider, but young enough that he will be eligible the next two years as well. Barring an injury, he seems like a lock to win it, even if he doesn’t lift the trophy in Paris in a month.
The Tour is launching the Tour de France Femmes, a women’s race that will begin on the Champs-Élysées the day the men’s Tour ends there and continue for eight days.
The final stage, though, is the real eye-opener: a punishing climb to the Planche des Belles Filles ski station in the Vosges Mountains.
At 39, Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands is favored to cap a great career with a win in the new event.
There had been a Tour for women, under the name Tour de France Féminin, for a few years in the 1980s before it was scrapped. In recent years, the Tour has hosted one- or two-day races for women, but this is the first full-stage race in decades.