Tour de France 2023 – 5 Things

The 2023 Tour de France rolled into Paris and over the finish line yesterday, putting 150-ish riders out of their misery. It was a highly entertaining edition of the storied race, and tempting to say, given a boost from the Netflix documentary Unchained, the year pro cycling returned, but you and I know better than that. Better, probably to take everything at face value and as it comes.

Here are 5 story lines I enjoyed from this year’s Tour:

A Necessary Rivalry – This year’s Tour seemed a two-horse race from the jump, and so it proved. Despite taking the yellow jersey fairly early Jonas Vingegaard didn’t look comfortable in it until week three, when Tadej Pogacar fell apart unexpectedly. In Pogacar’s defense, he raced a hard Spring campaign and broke his wrist during his Tour prep. He was obviously not in his top form, but he’s such a strong and imperious rider, you always half expected him to blow his Danish foil out of the water. Clearly, this is a rivalry with years more drama in it, and that’s exactly what cycling needs right now.

A New Sheriff In Town – Jasper Philipsen easily won the green jersey, taking four sprint stage wins along the way. He is clearly the fastest in a straight drag, but his style leaves a lot to be desired if you’re a rival. Philipsen is a chaos agent in the final meters. By the rules, he ought to have been disqualified at least twice, but the commisars have evidently decided a return to the old days of sharp-elbowed sprinting and wild line deviations is better for the spectacle. It certainly serves up plenty of fodder for debates. Should sprinting be safe? Or is chaos preferable?

Van Aert and Mohoric – They say Jonas Vingegaard isn’t popular in France. He’s reserved, unemotional, clinical, etc. The French seem to love noble losers, like Thibault Pinot. I get that. Two riders who earned piles of fresh respect were Wout van Aert and Matej Mohoric. Van Aert was already a supremely popular rider, but he showed day-after-day, in all terrain, that he’s possibly the strongest all-around rider in the world, blowing up the peloton, getting in the breakaway, leading out climbs, challenging in sprints. He left in week three to be with his wife as she had a baby, and that just made him cooler. Mohoric on the other hand is what you’d call a grinder and an opportunist. He won Stage 19 and then gave one of the best interviews a professional cyclist will ever give. If you didn’t know his name before, watch this video and meet your new favorite cyclist.

The Americans – Watching the NBC broadcast tailored for an American audience, we get rather more made of the American racers than is maybe merited. Still, it would churlish not to credit Neilson Powless for his aggressive, if ultimately doomed, pursuit of the polka dot jersey. He put EF Easy Post on camera early and often, and that won’t hurt as Jonathan Vaughter’s team needs to attract the sponsorship dollars to get more competitive with the elite teams, like UAE Emirates and Jumbo-Visma. Speaking of which, Vingegaard’s top climbing domestique Sepp Kuss, out of Durango, CO, more than distinguished himself, delivering his Danish team leader to every major mountain battle. Kuss finished 12th overall, which tells you how much talent is there.

The Young Pretenders – It’s a long way from Vingegaard and Pogacar to the rest of the riders, but there are a few who showed that, with some time and some team support, they might vault that chasm and challenge for the top step. Finishing 3rd and 4th were the Yates twins, Adam and Simon. Adam’s job was to shelter and lead Pogacar to victory. That he still finished 3rd (and won Stage 1) tells you how strong he was. His brother Simon, riding for Jayco-Alula, was arguably even more impressive, since he earned his 4th place spot with a much weaker team. Ineos-Grenadiers’ Carlos Rodriguez also acquitted himself well, though a late race crash, and an underwhelming team performance did for his chances at the podium. Others who stood out were Pello Bilbao, Jai Hindley, and Felix Gall.

Join the conversation
  1. tcfrog says

    Watching the tour this year was a real treat. One storyline in addition to those you outlined, were the times the breakaways managed to stay away, in some cases just meters ahead of the peloton. There was never a dull day, which made the 3-week race as a whole much more exciting to watch.

  2. khal spencer says

    This is the first time in many years that I glued myself to the extended highlights every day. The Dynamic Duo was fun to watch, but so was all the other racing. Chapeau, Le Tour!

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