One third of the 109th edition of the Tour de France (tDF) is now in the books. Even though this is an event steeped in history, the race organizers were not afraid to mix things up starting in the first week. Deviations from the norm included starting the race on a Friday, instead of the usual Saturday, the first three stages held in the Scandinavian country of Denmark for the first time ever instead of France, an early stage on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, and the first ever mountain finish at La Planche des belle Filles.
The race started this year on a rainy day with an individual time trial route with lots of twists an turns around Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark. The rain required riders to take it easy so as not to crash on the slippery roads forcing an early exit from the TDF. As the rain started to wane, it was the turn of Belgian rider Yves Lampaert in his first appearance at the 2022 TDF who at the end of his ride had a time five seconds quicker than the nearest competitor and clinched the stage win fulfilling a lifetime dream of winning a stage.
The next two stages were on flat terrain which favored the sprinters. There were several crashes as is typical in the first week of racing when there are a lot of nerves in the group, but none of the crashes impacted race leaders. Stage two was won by Dutch rider Fabio Jakobsen, his first career TDF stage win. Dutch rider Dylan Groenewegen won the third stage in a photo finish, his fifth TDF stage win.
After a rest day to travel to France, the first stage on French soil started in Dunkirk on a route marked with small hills, a sprint, and a small cobbled section. The race was full of attacks, splits, and regroupings. Belgian Wout Van Aert won the stage and earned the Yellow Jersey as overall race leader.
The fifth stage was a brutal struggle on the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix in France was won by Australian rider Simon Clarke. Some say the TDF should not include sections on cobblestones because it is hard on the riders and their bikes, but it does mix up the race and make it interesting. Attacks started early and the peloton was in disarray for most of the race with a lot of drama at the end to see who would come out ahead.
Stage six, this year's longest stage, stated in Belgium and ended in France. The team of two time TDF winner was successful in leading out Slovenian Tadej Pogačar so he could beat out all competitors in the final sprint to win stage six as well as on the first major climb and summit finish of stage seven and to take and hold onto the lead of the race.
A journalist asked several professional bike riders at races earlier this year what was the weakness the current race leader as of stage seven Tadej Pogačar and the consensus was he did not have any. He can time trial, sprint, and climb hills and is proving to be a very strong rider this year and definitely the one to watch.
Onward to more action in week two.
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