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Tour de France 2022: Alpe d’Huez, Pidcock, Vingegaard and Pogacar

The Galibier, the Croix de Fer, the Alpe d’Huez… The Tour de France’s latest stage in the Alps was preceded by a warning from Tadej Pogacar after his defeat on Wednesday, the Slovenian offering up a message reminiscent of General MacArthur’s “I shall return” after losing the Philippines. So we sat down in front of the TV anticipating a show from him, but in the end the excitement was elsewhere. It came courtesy of the young Brit Tom Pidcock. He’s an Olympic gold medallist in mountain biking and a cyclo-cross world champion - and now an emerging figure in the cycling discipline that we view as the main event. His descent of the Galibier and his climb on the Alpe d’Huez were memorable.

Pogacar gets it wrong once more

That made up for the disappointing performance of Pogacar, a two-time Tour winner who has made incomprehensible decisions on the last two days. On Wednesday, with the yellow jersey on his back, he went gung-ho. On Thursday, having lost the maillot jaune, he went on the defensive. The opposite of Jumbo-Visna, whose riders defended then attacked, with Jonas Vingegaard at the centre of the team’s efforts. Pogacar limited his reaction to two brief attacks after the midway point of the Alpe d’Huez, to which Vingegaard responded with the kind of energy that underlines the good shape he’s in. When Pogacar attacked for a third time, it was at the finish line, chasing useless, belated glory in a sprint between also-rans. Wasting his energy again, as is his wont.

Minority of fans act up yet again

The stage will be remembered best for Pidcock’s vibrant descent of the Galibier, and his orthodox, steady climb of the Alpe d’Huez, his relentless pedalling seeing off the four cyclists who had joined him in the breakaway, including Chris Froome. A statement victory in a setting that’s unique in world sport, a 21-bend stage first won by Faustino Coppi. The riders were flanked by crowds of fans that included a minority of disrespectful idiots who run alongside the competitors, get in the way, sneak selfies and, now, even take their attention-seeking to the point of letting off smoke flares. They’re a major pain in the neck, and there seems to be little we can do about them: you can’t keep people out of the countryside, just as you can’t remedy the stupidity of utter morons.