Tour de France 2023
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) finally gained time on Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and extended his lead at the 2023 Tour de France with a dominant, victorious ride in the 22.4km time trial.
The two riders have been locked in a battle for every second so far in this year’s race but Vingegaard stopped the clock at the top of the Côte de Domancy in 32:36.
Pogačar was a huge 1:38 slower and slipped to a significant 1:48 seconds behind in the overall classification.
For any other rider the Tour de France would surely be over. Now it is up to Pogačar to try to fight back on the mountain stage to Courchevel on Wednesday and then all the way to Paris.
Pogačar opted to change from his time trial bike to a lightweight road bike with 5.6km to go. The change cost him around 15 seconds and helped him perform better on the climb but he was simply not able to match a stratospheric Vingegaard.
The Dane stayed on his time trial bike for all the stage and stayed tucked in his aero tuck as much as possible, suffering on the gradient but gaining second after second.
At the finish Pogačar almost caught Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers) but Vingegaard could almost see Pogačar such was his time gain.
In the race for the podium, Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates), seventh on the stage, overtook Rodríguez to move into third overall a massive 8:52 behind Vingegaard.
Rodriguez is now fourth overall at 8:57, while Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) is fifth overall at 11:15.
Vingegaard shouted out in celebration and emotion soon after he crossed the line and then gasped for his breath as a soigneur poured cold water over him.
“I was feeling great today, I think it’s the best time trial I’ve ever done,” Vingegaard said before pulling on the leader’s yellow jersey yet again but with a new, far more significant margin on Pogačar.
“I’m really proud of what I did today and really happy about the victory. It’s my first time trial victory in the Tour de France.
“I think today I even surprised myself with the time trial I did. I didn’t expect to do so well in the time trial today to be honest.”
Despite his 1:48 lead on Pogačar, Vingegaard refuted a suggestion that the Tour de France was over.
“No, there’s still a lot of hard stages to come. We have to keep fighting the next days and we’re looking forward to it.”
Michael Mørkøv (Soudal-Quickstep) was the first rider off in Passy at 1:05 local time, with 157 riders scheduled to follow him during the afternoon, with Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) last off in the leader’s yellow jersey.
Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) was the only non-starter. The American has a muscle injury in his left thigh and is suffering from saddle sores.
John Degenkolb, Team DSM-firmenich teammate Nils Eekhoff and then Cofidis rider Alexis Renard all crashed on the first corner, with subsequent riders taking a different, more cautious line to avoid doing the same. Sam Welsford was also slightly late for his start time, in a difficult first hour for Team DSM-Firmenich.
Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) rode calmly on the flat road but then switched to his road bike for the Côte de Domancy in what appeared to be a test for his UAE Team Emirates leader. Indeed, the team soon confirmed that Pogačar would change bikes at the foot of the climb, adding an extra twist to one of the tensest and decisive stages of the 2023 Tour de France.
Dries Devenyns, who announced that he will retire at the end of the season, briefly set the fastest time but teammate and French time trial champion Rémi Cavagna soon stopped the clock in 35:42 to take the hot seat. Cavagna took risks on the descents and dodged some drops of rain but admitted he could have gone faster. Fortunately, the expected afternoon rain held off for everyone.
Most riders starting in the mid-afternoon who were out of the fight for the GC paced their efforts to safely finish within the time limit. Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) went for it despite not being suited to the climb to the finish. The Swiss rider even changed bikes in the hope of finding extra seconds but was disappointed to finish 52 seconds slower than Cavagna, losing it all the Côte de Domancy climb.
The ever-aggressive Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) was just 53 seconds slower than Cavagna, while Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) also went hard to finish with a time of 36:06.
The tension and the speed rose when Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) and Giuliano Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) fought out their battle for the mountain points awarded to the fastest rider on the Côte de Domancy.
The American was fast but Ciccone was faster, setting 6:44 for the climb compared to Powless’ time of 7:24. The Italian scored five precious points and will wear the polka-dot jersey during Wednesday’s mountain stage to Courchevel.
At the finish, Cavagna warmed the hot seat for more than an hour but eventually waved to the television cameras when Wout van Aert beat him in a time of 35:27, 15 seconds faster than the Frenchman. Could Wout win? Perhaps but Pogačar and Vingegaard were still to ride.
Back at the start, the GC riders warmed up but tried to stay as cool and collected as they could. Vingegaard wore an ice vest and faced a huge vaporising fan. Pogačar opted to warm up inside the UAE Team Emirates mechanic’s truck. Temperatures outside were 35C.
One by one, the top ten riders in the overall classification started their rider and their battles for seconds and placings.
Pogačar lined up on the start ramp in a white skinsuit as the current best young rider. He took a deep breath in and then out before being waved away to his destiny. Two minutes later Vingegaard rolled down the start ramp, counting down the seconds to himself before making a fast, aggressive start.
Ahead of them, Simon Yates, his twin brother Adam Yates and Bilbao were all fast on the early Côte de la Cascade de Cœur climb and the flat valley road, almost as fast as Küng.
As expected Pogačar was even faster as he tried to take on Vingegaard, reaching the first intermediate time check after 7.1km. He set a time of 10:10, a massive 25 seconds better than Küng.
Pogačar seemed composed and fast, while Vingegaard was more aggressive in the corners and in his aero tuck. He reached the Passy Chef-Lieu 7.1km point in a stunning 9:54, the only rider below 10 minutes and a significant 16 seconds faster than Pogačar.
Ahead of the clash of the titans, Simon Yates climbed the Côte de Domancy with power on his time trial bike and finished in 35:34. Bilbao was even slightly faster in 35:31 and so would hold his seventh place overall. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) was slower but would retain his sixth place overall and title of super domestique.
The crowds edged more and more into the road as Pogačar and then Vingegaard passed and raced to the foot of the Côte de Domancy climb.
Pogačar was expected to change bikes and he eased up unclipped with 5.6km to go. Roadside Slovenian fans helped by taking his time trial bike, while a UAE Team Emirates mechanic grabbed his road bike and rushed it to Pogačar.
UAE Team Emirates were convinced that a bike swap was the best strategy but it left Pogačar more than 50 seconds down on Vingegaard, who stayed on his time trial bike all the way to the finish.
Pogačar tried to find extra speed on the climb but desperately sacrificed aerodynamics for a few more watts. It proved to be costly and miscalculated. The Slovenian appeared laboured as he neared the finish line and perhaps knew the Tour de France was slipping away from him.
In 2020 Pogačar snatched victory in the Tour de France from Primož Roglič and Jumbo-Visma in the La Planche des Belles Filles time trial. Now Jumbo-Visma have taken revenge and set up overall victory unless Pogačar can produce something truly special on the road to Paris.
Tomorrow’s 17th stage promises more fireworks as the peloton travels from Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc to the altiport in the mountains above Courchevel. The finale features the brutal Col de la Loze, while the route adds up to 165.6 kilometres and takes in an elevation gain of 5,400 metres. The last 600 meters rise at – whoops – 10.8%.
A glorious fight for the breakaway is in the pipeline. Following a rolling section of 15 kilometres the riders enter the Col des Saises, which is a climb of 13.4 kilometres at 5.1%. The route descends to Beaufort only to return to climbing, this time on the Cormet de Roselend, an ascent of 19.9 kilometres at 6%.
Following a prolonged downhill the Côte de Longefoy throws in 6.6 kilometres at 7.5% before the route continues to climbs at shallow gradients to Notre-Dame-du-Pré. Still 55 kilometres to go when the riders move through the resort village.
The Tour descends to Moûtiers and moments later, in Brides-les-Bains, the Col de la Loze opens on a gentle note. The climb totals almost 30 kilometres, but the first half is nothing special. The gradients go up to 7% after Méribel, which is still nothing compared to the last 5 kilometres. This part of the Col de la Loze was first paved in 2019 and it’s extremely irregular. Still, the average gradient of the last 5 kilometres sits at over 10%.
A 6 kilometres downhill, with a short uphill halfway, leads to the last 600 metres. Which is another insane ramp at 10.8%.
Stage 16 result:
- Jonas Vingegaard (DEN, Jumbo-Visma) 32:26
- Tadej Pogacar (SLO, UAE Team Emirates) +1:38″
- Wout van Aert (BEL, Jumbo-Visma) +2:51″
- Pello Bilbao (ESP, Bahrain – Victorious) +2:55″
- Simon Yates (GBR, Team Jayco AlUla) +2:58″
- Rémi Cavagna (FRA, Soudal – Quick Step )+3:06″
- Adam Yates (GBR, UAE Team Emirates) +3:12″
- Mattias Skjelmose (DEN, Lidl – Trek) +3:21″
- Mads Pedersen (DEN Lidl – Trek) +3:31″
- David Gaudu (FRA, Groupama – FDJ) +3:31
- Jonas Vingegaard (DEN, Jumbo-Visma) 63h 06’53”
- Tadej Pogacar (SLO, UAE Team Emirates) +1:48″
- Adam Yates (GBR, UAE Team Emirates) +8:52″
- Carlos Rodriguez Cano (ESP, Ineos Grenadiers) +8:57″
- Jai Hindley (AUS, BORA – hansgrohe) +11:15″
- Sepp Kuss (USA, Jumbo-Visma) +12:56″
- Pello Bilbao (ESP, Bahrain – Victorious) +13:06″
- Simon Yates (GBR, Team Jayco AlUla) +13:46″
- David Gaudu (FRA, Groupama) +17:38″
- Felix Gall (AUT, AG2R Citroën Team) +18:19″