After a Giro d'Italia stacked with more time trialling kilometres than they'd had in years, it struck a stark contrast when the Tour de France announced a route with just 22.4km against the clock, the fewest since the 1930s. Designed to encourage a close and competitive GC battle, even today's lone time trial looked to be geared towards the protagonists rather than the specialists, but despite a tricky climb, it wasn't expected to make a massive difference to the overall outcome, with both Vingegaard and Pogačar strong in the discipline and expected to go well.
In fact, after a day of rest in which they (presumably) weren't together (despite Pogi's jokey Tweet suggesting they might ride straight to the coffee shop after spending yet another stage side by side), the most confusing thing for the two leading men of the 2023 Tour would be their lack of proximity to one another, having spent almost every minute attached to one another's wheels for the past two weeks.
With little else to talk about, online discussion in the early stages of the day's action centred around whether riders would go for a bike change or not, the dodgy corner that caught out a number of riders early on, and the possible rain that might occur later in the day. There was a missed start time (Sam Welford), a spirited charge specifically just on the climb by the polka dot-skinsuited Giulio Ciccone, and a strong effort from Wout van Aert on a relatively climby TT - after being gifted the time trial stage win last year, would he be condemned to a third second place of the Tour by his teammate?
Of course, the main focus of the day was on the two riders who before this stage, could not be separated by more than a second here or there. Let's move on to see how it went...
PRÉPAREZ VOS MUSETTES!
def: prepare your musettes!
A look ahead to tomorrow...
Cuisine du Jour
Stage 17 - Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc - Courchevel (165.7km , Mountain)
The hits keep on coming. At least the riders had a rest day, and for many, a relatively stress-free day in terms of effort, as tomorrow is an absolute beast. With four categorised climbs, including the Souvenir Henri Desgrange highest point on the Tour, this is the Queen stage of the race, and I've chosen a suitably regal local cuisine to match.
Traditionally eaten at epiphany, and dating back to the 14th century, Galette des Rois - literally, the cake of kings - is made locally in the Savoyard region, and though it's not the right time of year to be celebrating with one of these delicious treats (made with brioche and topped with candied fruit and sugar), I'm sure the French will make an exception to crown the king of climbs, and potentially the king of the race, on a stage which will be decisive, one way or another.
The cake traditionally contains a bean, or charm, inside, and whoever finds this within their slice will supposedly be crowned the next king. Who will find the charm tomorrow - or to borrow a cycling-specific term - have diamonds in their legs, as they ascend the eye-watering 28.1km long Col de la Loze? Whoever it is may well find themselves the maillot jaune elect with just one decisive stage remaining. Can Jonas Vingegaard build on his lead, and crown himself the once and future king of the Tour de France?
APRÈS L'EFFORT, LE RÉCONFORT
def: after the effort, the comfort
Taking a sideways look back at the day's action, to reflect, reconcile and remember.
Speedy Stage Takeaway
Writing a report about a time trial stage always feels like a rehashing of the obvious, but it bears repeating that what we witnessed today was truly spectacular. The performance of a lifetime from a rider in truly incredible form, the time trial allowed Jonas Vingegaard to shine, and shine he did, at the expense of everyone else in the race and on the stage as he took the first victory for Team Jumbo-Visma, but mainly Tadej Pogačar, as he drove a significant wedge of time between them for the first time in the race.
While Vingegaard was soaring though, there were some other stand-out performances that warrant a mention.
Of course, Wout van Aert (3) who was the 'best of the rest,' magnanimous in defeat and simply proud of his teammate. He has achieved four podium spots so far this Tour - two on sprints, one on a mountain top finish, and one on a time trial - consolidating his 'all-rounder' reputation in the peloton.
Remi Cavagna (6) - a strong ride, the French champion kept the hotseat warm for a very long time
Mattias Skjelmose (8) - despite saying he was going to go easy, he still made the top 10
Mads Pedersen (9) - not bad at all for a sprinter, Mads made it a trio of Danes in the top 10
Pello Bilbao (4), Simon Yates (5) and Adam Yates (7) - seriously good efforts from all three and consolidation their GC positions.
David Gaudu (10) - probably the time trial of his career. Plain and simple.
Felix Gall (13)- major progress, given how much time he lost against the clock at Tour de Suisse, though it was a course that suited him better
And Giulio Ciccone, who sported the polka dot skinsuit with style, and went all out on the climb to be the fastest of the day and consolidate his lead in the KOM competition.
Stage 16 in 16 WORDS:
Polka dot highs.
Belgian champion tries.
Bike change unwise?
Diminutive Dane flies.
Champion in waiting, arise.
Stage 16, in emojis
I need a drink!
with mixologist Stine Momo Agerbæk
I’m a bit speechless. It’s obvious that I, as a Danish speaking human in cycling, probably have had more information available on how today’s stage winner was feeling about his race until now - and I most likely have a better frame of understanding of what the concept of “Jutland” means for someone’s understated quotes about feeling good and believing in his chances, but… JONAS FOR POKKER? DU ER JO SINDSSYG MAND!
(transl: “Jonas for F’s sake? You are crazy, man!”)
So… I’ll propose a very Danish celebratory tipple and a less weird one, both yellow though.
It means “flight/plane drink” - plain and simple. And it’s hard to claim Jonas Vingegaard wasn’t flying today.
It’s snaps (Danish akvavit, I really don’t like the caraway seed flavoured ones, so… a neutral one or vodka for me), gul sodavand (literally “Yellow soda”, it’s a sweet, brightly yellow lemony thing, very retro. Schweppes does an upscale non-DK one as far as I’m aware), a bit of lemon juice, over ice in a highball glass. It’s said to have been invented by English fighter pilots stationed in Denmark after WW2.
Gul sodavand is also historically served mixed with porter (dark beer) as well, as a kind of amped up shandy. Use Limfjordsporter if you wanna keep it Vingegaard specific. He still resides in Glyngøre, a town right on the coast of Limfjorden.
You can read about the flyversjus here - browser translate seems to work.
As a quick alternative to the very Danish-centric beverages above - but sticking to the colour of today’s performance from the yellow jersey… A yellow, yummy, yubilant (well, I had a theme) Limoncello Martini.
Vive la Lanterne Rouge!
Vive Alexis Renard!
Ah, it was a tough day for the Cofidis rider. He's currently listed as finishing 156th rather than OTL, but all calculations suggest that he finished an agonising 1 second outside of the time limit set by Jonas Vingegaard's blisteringly fast time. Even if they let that slide, or the calculations are off, the Frenchman has apparently broken his elbow, so may not take to the start of stage 17 regardless. Tough break. Perhaps we can cheer him up by featuring three facts about him in today's Dispatch.
- Alexis is the youngest member of the Cofidis team, have turned 24 on 1st June this year.
- He is a wannabe drummer if social media is to be believed...
3. He had to undergo heart surgery last year after a rhythmic anomaly was discovered. He was forced to take several months out of cycling to recover.
noun: the refuelling
Features to enhance your Tour experience, and refresh your mind after a long day's cycling viewing.
Stat du Jour
by Sam Mould
It’s ITT day! It was time for all the space-age bikes, helmets straight out of your favourite sci-fi movie, oh and those oh-so-delightful head socks.
This is obviously done to gain as much of an aerodynamic advantage as possible; this becomes so much more important as there is no peloton available to help with the aero drag.
So with all the R&D that has gone into the specialised equipment, what impact does this have on the speed of our funky, helmeted warriors?
When looking at the fastest Tour de France ITT average pace (55.45 kph, recorded by Rohan Dennis in 2015’s edition) it proves to be 5.05 kph faster than the fasted recorded mass start stage (though I accept that the 16 years of training and equipment enhancements, along with the 160 km reduced course may all have contributed to this difference).
As stage 16 is ITT day there aren’t many climbs to choose from but the tallest categorised climb was cat 2 Côte de Domancy - at 810m tall, it is 462.86 Jonas Vingegaards.
Question 1: What was the average age of riders at the start of the tour? 29.22 years old
Question 2: What is the average age of riders left in the tour? 30.29 years old
Question 3: Which team had the youngest starting team? Uno X with an average age of 26.75
Question 4: Which team has seen the greatest movement in average age of the team to the end of stage 15? Astana-Qazaqstan
Question 5: Which climb was the highest peak of the second week? Col de Joux Plane
Question 6: How many riders had the rainbow trim on their kit on stage one of the tour? 6
Question 7: How many years have those riders won the world elite road race between them? 9
Question 8: Which stage this year has been completed in the slowest average pace? Stage 6 with an average pace of 37.08 k/ph
Question 9: At the end of stage 15, how many teams are still 8 riders strong? 11
Question 10: What percentage of total KM have already been completed in this years Tour de France? 76.65%
Band of Brothers
There are 27 nations represented at this year's Tour, and coincidentally, 21 of them have two or more riders. Each day, we'll take a look at a different nation, evaluate their chances of success and throw in a random fact or two, and add to our 'National Standings' chart to see if numerical advantage translates to more stage wins. Dedicated to Justdiggit, Gino's charity of choice, who have set up a specific project in Gino's memory - please consider donating to them, during the Tour.
STAGE 16 - Kazakhstan
To choose today's country, I cast my eye down the day's results, resolving to select whichever nation had the best finishing position, that I hadn't yet featured. And that was Alexey Lutsenko, in 16th position, so it felt kind of fitting, given that's the stage number, too.
Unsurprisingly, both the Kazakh riders ride for Astana-Qazaqstan Team, with Lutsenko their nominated GC leader, though he's currently in 41st position having had a few bad days. That being said he's been active in breakaways, and along with Julian Alaphilippe was one of the leading duo for a large proportion of stage 15. That being said, his best finish so far on the race has been a 7th place, on the stage up to Puy-de-Dome.
His countryman, and current U23 road race World Champion Yevgeniy Federov, has had mixed fortunes too. He's been the Lanterne Rouge, and in fact has only managed to finish in the top 100 riders twice so far this Tour.
Of the two, Astana will hope for Lutsenko to have a good day on one of the two remaining mountain stages, but it's a long shot to imagine Kazakhstan making an appearance on the national standings table.
YéYé, c'est Le Tour de France 2023
with DJ Momo
55 + 56: Today’s early moments saw some pretty cool clips of riders warming up, which told us that Pierre Latour warms up to French new wave bops (he even sings along!) and that Trek at least thought that Volbeat was a suitable soundtrack for Mads P. Who did a proper warrior effort, ending 9th on the climb heavy route of the day.
57: I have never heard this song sober. There it is, I said it. It was a drinking song where I went to high school (and beyond). Yes, Danish teenagers drink too much, but that’s a topic for another day.
It’s the only song I instinctively know mentions Thy (Thyborøn) aka where today’s stage winner grew up. And it weirdly feels fitting for the lightest heavyweight fight imaginable. When the melody slows and drags, I recall people doing the “elbow - fist” table slam alongside it. Maybe Jumbo will celebrate like that tonight?
58: Sorry to be rather Danish today, but with 3 riders in the Top 10, it’s hard not to. This anthem of swag bad-assery (lågsus is fauxnetic for luksus = luxury in Danish) is from Dragør, A’mar, so it’s for Skjelmose once again pulling out a negative split of the ages! And one of the rappers is called JonasForFaen aka JonasFFS, which is the theme of today!
59: 10 seconds is NOTHING. 1:48 is… substantial. But Col de la Loze is MEAN, so… tomorrow should be another battle!
60: He was born in a windy flat (hella windy, hella flat) remote part of Denmark. He was tiny. But he met the mountains and he GREW UP! If you substitute the ocean for higher altitude, it’s basically Moana, right? And look how cute he was…
So this one is for Frida’s dad. I’m sure she’ll approve!
Just Søren Wærenskjold's helmet.
def: The bits and bobs, the shiny things, the small treasures that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Rider doing something they’re not supposed to be doing of the day
Michael Mørkøv missed his time in our Vive Lounge, as he didn't actually finish a stage as the Lanterne Rouge, but the Danish lead-out man started first on today's time trial by dint of the retirement of Matteo Jorgenson prior to today's stage start. (A moment of silence for Movistar, who are suffering the worse luck at this race).
He was rewarded instead with the lion's share of the camera time as first off the ramp, setting the early pace, showing the world what the course looked like, and taking a seat in the hotseat first. It's not the first person who springs to mind when it comes to time trialling so he definitely qualifies for this segment today.
Also doing what they were definitely not supposed to be doing, and probably spending the evening on the Team DSM naughty step, Alexander Edmondson and Sam Welsford who were allegedly caught up in conversation prior to the stage and as a result, Welsford committed the cardinal sin and turned up late for his start time. Oops.
Tweets of the Day
This footage of Israel-Premier Tech's Corbin Strong scoring a perfect shot with his bidon went viral today, and with good reason.
Are you visiting a stage of Le Tour this year? If so, this is your chance not only to show your photography skills to the world, but also to win a prize courtesy of Jen's Cycling Art. Just drop me a message and send across your best shots, and those selected will feature in a gallery of the day's best photography. Spread the word and get those cameras honed and ready!