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Tour de France rest day recap: Witnessing history

11 Jul 2022

Make the most of it, because we are watching historic greatness unfold in real time

Words: Will Strickson Photos: Pete Goding

One week, two rest days, three yellow jersey wearers, four countries featured, five winning nationalities, six stages between rest days, seven reasons why you’ve already stopped reading our second rest day recap of the 2022 Tour de France before it’s even started.

Here we are again, a day without the Tour de France. But thanks to the clever decision to have rest days on Mondays, most people probably won’t notice as they're too busy catching up on work. And if you work in cycling you’re probably trying to figure out how the Tour’s mandatory rest day Covid tests came back negative from every single rider.

Not me though, I live in the past, so have spent the day contemplating just how good the last week of racing has been.

A yellow jersey breakaway, a Roubaix-style cobbles stage, the defending champion getting back-to-back stage wins, the yellow and green jerseys sprinting for the stage and the man with best name in the peloton winning from the break.

Week one of the Tour has been absolutely wild and with the parcours still to come, it has become clear we are witnessing one of the great Tours de France of the modern era.

What we are seeing is historically good riders at the top of their game fighting for every stage and every second, a route that blends immense challenges with picturesque scenery and highly entertaining racing, and a true challenger emerging to threaten a previously immovable object.

If you missed any of the action, here’s our recap of the last week’s racing with the help of Pete Goding’s photography.

Stage 4: Le meilleur jaune

For too long we've seen yellow jerseys sit back in the peloton and use their teammates to defend their position. 

But we’re seemingly entering a Golden Age, with the current crop of elite racers overcompensating for the Sky/Ineos stranglehold with a highly entertaining, winning-from-the-front attacking style.

That was demonstrated firstly by this absolute alien Wout van Aert. Wearing yellow, on a day that he could’ve left to a reduced bunch sprint and still won, he and his Jumbo-Visma team put the hammer down on the short final climb and the Belgian went over the top solo, holding off the peloton by himself in an attack pretty much never seen from a maillot jaune.

Not too sure about his ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ arm-waving celebration though.

Stage 5: An all-time Classic

Paris-Roubaix is the best one-day race in cycling, there’s no debate. So every time the cobbles come calling at the Tour de France it immediately puts that Tour into legendary status.

2014, Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour, Lo Squalo put on a clinic in the wet on the cobbles to cement the yellow jersey he’d won in Yorkshire. Legendary.

2018, Geraint Thomas’s Tour, say no more. Stage 9 to Roubaix saw a who’s who of Classics legends fighting for the stage with former Paris-Roubaix champ John Degenkolb holding off Greg Van Avermaet, Yves Lampaert, Philippe Gilbert, Peter Sagan, Jasper Stuyven and Bob Jungels.

2022, a long day for a legendary breakaway won by Simon Clarke, a 35-year-old Aussie who was out of contract until the 11th hour at the beginning of the season and facing forced retirement, gets the biggest win of his career. While the race blows up behind with crashes, mechanicals and Tadej Pogačar showing he has it all.

Stage 6: Passing the baton

From one alien to another. Wout van Aert honoured the jersey once again by getting himself in a three-man breakaway while still in yellow before dropping his two companions to be the lone leader once again.

He laid it all on the line but this time it was his long goodbye to the race lead. The hilly finish meant that it was one for the puncheurs, but Pogačar had other ideas. He outsprinted Michael Matthews to an impressive stage win that saw him take enough bonus seconds to snatch yellow from the grips of Neilson Powless and take it for what was to be a special day on Stage 7…

Stage 7: La Super Planche

No climb has had more history in recent years than La Planche des Belles Filles. The Vosges’ big name was the scene for Pogačar’s stunning 2020 time-trial to take his first yellow jersey and his first Tour de France win at the first attempt.

His Stage 6 exploits meant he revisited the climb in yellow and this time it was officially Super thanks to the extra gravel section not featured in that TT.

Not only did it make for beautiful pictures, it was the Tour’s most dramatic stage finish so far with Lennard Kämna – the breakaway’s sole survivor – getting caught in the final 300 metres by a charging Jonas Vingegaard, whose raw power looked to have beaten Pogi to an almighty upset.

But you don’t become the great the Slovenian has by giving in. A final dig out of the depths of his legs saw Pogačar take a truly remarkable victory and Vingegaard could barely stand up over the line. 

The Tour de France Femmes finishes with this same climb. I’m Will Strickson and I’m a Planche des Belles Filles-aholic.

Stage 8: Packing a punch

Thought we’d seen the last of this man? Oh no, far from it. Wout van Aert has pretty much sewn up the green jersey competition already and, alongside Pogačar, is one of the two most complete riders of his generation.

In another punchy finish – with another image of Michael Matthews narrowly missing out, chin up Michael – we were treated to a battle between the green jersey and the yellow jersey. What have we done to deserve this spectacular show? Oh yeah, Team Sky.

Wout took the W but Tadej took bonus seconds that may still prove vital in his quest for a third Tour title.

Stage 9: Jungels is massive

Going into this rest day, the big guns deserved an extra day of rest, especially with an all-time list of climbs coming up in the Alps. That could mean only one thing on a medium mountain stage: a big time breakaway.

A huge group of the peloton’s best escapees – including Wout again, this guy is honestly a joke – saw Bob Jungels solo to victory with some very toothy climbing and demon descending. Cycling’s Bobby Trees is said to be one of the nicest men in pro cycling, so everyone liked that.

Oh, and Pogačar and Vingegaard found a few extra seconds on their rivals behind just because they could. How lucky are we?

What’s in store next?

In short: Lacets de Montvernier, Col du Galibier, Col du Télégraphe, Col du Granon, Col de la Croix de Fer, Alpe d'Huez and more. And that’s just week two.

For all our coverage, head to our Tour de France hub