Ride the High Country, Duel in the Sun, Two for the Road, Two Rode Together… Film titles from my adolescence came to my mind as, on the small screen, I watched Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar battle it out on a thrilling ride through the Pyrenees. What a fine stage; what a fine conclusion to this year’s Tour de France, which is doing its bit to make up for a slightly uninspiring summer of sport. With the football World Cup moved to the winter and the World Athletics Championships held in an awkward time zone for us here, with not much happening in the transfer market and Spain now out of the Women’s Euros, the Tour has stepped up with an unforgettable 2022 edition.
Surprisingly so. After a period of years in which one team has been so abundantly superior as to be able to simply shut up shop, we’ve now been treated to a succession of wide-open stages, with a whole host of riders able to make their mark as the central battle for the yellow jersey rages on. Having seen the young sensation Pogacar win two consecutive Tours and threaten to dominate the race for many years, Vingegaard has now emerged as a competitor to the Slovenian, snatching the lead from him in the Alps, resisting his continuous attacks in the Pyrenees, and finally seeing him off on the Hautacam, at the end of a wonderful stage in which both gave it absolutely everything.
A short stage that packs in the very best of cycling
The descent on the Spandelles, with Vingegaard almost falling off his bike when it reared up, and Pogacar crashing soon afterwards, told you everything you needed to know about the very essence of cycling, even more so than the tenacity and class shown by both on the climb. If Vingegaard - the now all but certain winner - has been fantastic, so too has Pogacar, who may have wasted energy at certain times, but rode with immeasurable belief and ambition until, close to the summit of the Hautacam, he had to admit defeat against a superb opponent who had a better team around him. A short but vibrant stage that condensed the very best of cycling into four hours. Viva el Tour!