Birthday boy Geraint Thomas strengthened his grip on the leader’s pink jersey as Filippo Zana left Thibaut Pinot with a broken heart once again on stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia.

Thomas was able to follow a late move from Primoz Roglic on the approach to Val di Zoldo as Joao Almeida dropped back, and the two then worked together to keep the Portuguese behind and take 20 seconds out of him, enough to see Roglic move up to second.

With one mountain stage to come and a mountainous time trial before Sunday’s finale in Rome, Thomas leads by 29 seconds from Roglic with Almeida 39 seconds in arrears.

“It was a decent day,” Thomas said. “To gain time on Almeida and not get dropped by Primoz, it was a good day, a solid day for sure. I felt pretty good, pretty in control.

“Primoz, he likes to go hard, then take it easy, then go hard. I gave him a few turns, then I wasn’t sure how he was feeling. In the last two kilometres he really squeezed on it again, he was super strong, but I was pretty happy with how it was.

“Obviously it’s nice (to gain time) but Primoz had a bad day the other day and Almeida did today. I’ve just got to keep being consistent day by day, climb by climb.”

The pink jersey crossed the line a little under two minutes after Italian champion Zana sprinted clear of Pinot, who for a second time in a week came within a few metres of a first career Giro stage win in his final appearance in the race.

The leading duo had been part of a six-strong breakaway group who were allowed an advantage of up to six minutes on the 161km stage from Oderzo, but eyes were always further back on the first of the mountainous trio of stages that will decide who wears pink in Rome.

Thomas, donning the leader’s jersey on his 37th birthday as he aims to become the race’s oldest ever winner, was clearly in confident mood as his Ineos Grenadiers team-mates drilled the pace on the front of the peloton.

They quickly shed several riders as the road ramped up inside the final 30 kilometres, first on the Forcella Cibiana, then on the steep slopes of the Forno di Zoldo.

There were question marks over Roglic’s form after he lost time on Tuesday’s stage 16 – a day when Almeida and Thomas rode away – but as they neared the top of the penultimate climb he showed his hand as Jumbo-Visma team-mate Sepp Kuss guided him to the front to launch an attack.

Thomas was quicky on his wheel but Almeida dropped back. Jay Vine did his best to guide his UAE Emirates team-mate back but could not fully close the gap after running wide on the short descent into the two kilometre climb to the finish, leaving Almeida to chase alone.

Irishman Eddie Dunbar finished just behind Almeida to move up to fourth overall, adding to the celebrations for the Jayco-Alula team after Zana’s victory.

While there was still no stage win for Pinot, similarly left frustrated on stage 13 last week, the Frenchman at least moved up to seventh overall, four minutes 43 seconds down.

Alberto Dainese bounced back from stomach problems to win stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia in a photo finish as Geraint Thomas finished safely to retain the leader’s pink jersey.

Dainese, who has spent several days suffering with illness, edged out the fast approaching Jonathan Milan by a tyre’s width in Caorle with Michael Matthews a couple of inches further back.

Mark Cavendish, still seeking a first win of the season a couple of days after announcing it would be his last as a professional, had been near the front of the bunch on the approach to town.

But the Manxman lost position on one of two tight left-handers inside the last two kilometres and could not contest the sprint, showing his frustration as he rolled over the line. There should be one more opportunity for a sprint on Sunday’s final stage in Rome.

Thomas was guided into the finish by Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Ben Swift, staying safe to retain his 18-second advantage over Joao Almeida in the general classification, with Primoz Roglic sat third, 29 seconds down.

That means the Welshman will spend his 37th birthday in pink when the race returns to the mountains on Thursday going into the decisive weekend.

“It was an alright day, a little bit of rain but nothing compared to what we’ve had so far,” Thomas said.

“It was a bit of a crazy bunch finish, we’re happy to get that done. We knew the sprint teams would race a decent pace and we were able to save as much as possible for the next three days.

“It will be nice (tomorrow), hopefully it will be a good day. There’s lots of work to do before (Sunday), we’ll take tomorrow first.”

Before the mountains to come, this was a rare opportunity for the sprinters, and their determination to take it was clear as a four-man breakaway that included Charlie Quarterman was offered little margin and little hope, never building much more than a 90-second advantage.

The last of those escapees, Senne Leysen, was caught with five kilometres left of the 197km from Pergine Valsugana, almost all of which was either flat or downhill.

When the sprint began, Matthews struck out first but Dainese, racing close to home in the north east of Italy, used his slipstream to come around to the right.

More of a surprise was the storming finish of Milan, who appeared out of position on the final bend but this Giro’s in-form sprinter had the pace to get within a few millimetres of victory.

“This is insane,” said the 25-year-old Dainese. “The first sprints didn’t go as we planned, we did a good job but we never had a good result to show it…

“In the last metres I was really digging deep. I saw Jonny coming, I couldn’t really throw my bike because I was on the limit but it was nice to get my wheel a few centimetres in front to get the win.

“Especially after the last five days, I was quite sick with stomach issues and also my breathing was not good and today was the first day I was feeling good. I’m super happy, I can’t thank my team enough for keeping me in the race and keeping me motivated.”

Geraint Thomas has no intentions of following Mark Cavendish by riding off into retirement any time soon as he targets Giro d’Italia success and finalising a contract extension at Ineos Grenadiers.

Welshman Thomas admits he did not quite believe his friend Cavendish would go through with his plans when he told him in confidence ahead of this year’s Giro.

Thomas, who played a key role when Cavendish won the world road race championship in 2011, hailed the Manxman as the “greatest sprinter of all time” and hopes he goes on to break the record for Tour de France stage wins later this summer.

Having previously hinted 2023 might be his final season as a professional cyclist, Thomas – who turns 37 on Thursday – remains fully focused on the challenges ahead.

“I said before the start of this tour that I just want to concentrate on the race,” Thomas told a media call during Monday’s Giro rest day.

“Talk has started with this team about extending (my contract), but I am going to cross that bridge in a couple of weeks after this race hopefully.”

Thomas, who won the 2018 Tour de France, has raced alongside Cavendish in the British Cycling set-up as well as for one season at Team Sky.

“He is the greatest sprinter of all time when you see his record and it has been an honour to ride with him,” said Thomas.

“Mark told me at the start of the Giro. I didn’t really believe him. I kind of thought he would keep going.

“He has had an incredible career. He is still racing, though, and has got to get the record at the Tour (de France) and hopefully win a stage here.”

Thomas surrendered the pink jersey to Bruno Armirail on stage 14, and heads into Tuesday’s 203-kilometre mountain course from Sabbio Chiese to Monte Bondone just over a minute off the pace and only two seconds ahead of favourite Primoz Roglic.

Thomas, though, will not take any unnecessary risks as he plots a successful path towards Rome.

“I certainly want to race, but I don’t want to just attack for the entertainment and then blow myself up and somebody else profit from it,” the Welshman said.

“We have got three mountain-top road stages and a super hard TT (time trial), so people have to try.

“We (Ineos) are obviously not leading the race because I am second, but when you look at the GC guys on top of the tree, you would say the onus is on other guys to try and gain some time back.

“But we have got our way of how we want to race and what we are thinking and hopefully that can come off.”

Thomas added: “I don’t think any of us will feel too comfortable with the situation at the moment – between me and Primoz there is only two seconds and anything can happen.

“You know for sure he is going to try to gain time and me as well, same with Joao (Almeida).

“The next three mountain stages will be interesting because we are all going to look to see if we can try to get something over the others.”

Einer Rubio won stage 13 of the Giro d’Italia as Geraint Thomas retained the Maglia Rosa on a rain-interrupted day which saw the race shortened.

Movistar rider Rubio won the 74.6-kilometre stage in two hours 16 minutes and 21 seconds.

Thibaut Pinot and Jefferson Alexander Cepeda finished second and third respectively.

Rubio said: “A big day that I was looking for by working very hard. It’s been difficult with the bad weather. But I had to keep going.

“I knew that Pinot was very strong. I had to finish with him and play it well tactically. It will take time for me to realise that I won a stage of the Giro d’Italia. I didn’t believe I’d do it.”

The stage started under heavy rain at Borgofranco d’Ivrea but organisers were forced to re-route some of it, with riders retreating to their team buses due to the conditions.

Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) retains the overall lead ahead of Primoz Roglic and Joao Almeida.

Thomas said: “We stayed calm when a small group went in the first climb. We stayed in control with Ben Swift and Pavel Sivakov setting the pace. Great ride by them. The way it went at the end made it quite hard to attack.

“But Primoz is probably happy to leave me in the Maglia Rosa for a few more days. I expect something more from him next week.”

Germany’s Nico Denz won stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia in Rivoli after outsprinting Latvia’s Toms Skujins to the finish line as Geraint Thomas remained as overall leader.

Denz had too much power for his rival at the end of the mainly flat 185-kilometre stage, which started in Bra, after the pair formed part of a five-man breakaway with 92km to go.

BORA-hansgrohe rider Denz, Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Australia’s Sebastian Berwick, who finished third, had pulled clear of the leading group, together with Italy’s Alessandro Tonelli (Green Project Bardiani).

Tonelli fell away with 32km to go but held on to finish fourth, while Giro leader Thomas came home safely in the peloton to maintain his two-second lead over Primoz Roglic in the general classification.

Denz said after his first Grand Tour stage win: “It’s really big for me. I’m super proud. I was not supposed to be in the break. It was up to Patrick Konrad and Bob Jungels.

“But Bob said he wasn’t at his best and he preferred to save energy to help Lennard Kamna (on Friday) so I had to replace him at the front.

“When I looked around me in the breakaway there were only monsters. Cooperation in the breakaway was very bad, then I found myself at the front on the last climb. Then I knew the finale. I had it in my mind. So I could sprint the way I wanted.”

Thomas took the leaders’ pink jersey after the withdrawal of race leader Remco Evenepoel due to a positive Covid-19 test on Sunday.

The Ineos Grenadiers rider made no bid to impact on the breakaway group, which did not include any general classification contenders, and was grateful for the support of his team-mates.

Thomas said: “Obviously Pavel Sivakov rode very well today despite his crash yesterday.

“He’s definitely in a good shape. Hopefully it’s all good tomorrow in Switzerland and I can defend the Maglia Rosa the same way I won the Tour de Suisse before.”

Geraint Thomas has no qualms about donning the pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday, despite inheriting it after race leader Remco Evenepoel’s withdrawal due to Covid.

Evenepoel’s routine test on Sunday night came back positive, only a few hours after the Belgian world champion pipped Thomas by a single second in the stage nine time trial to reclaim top spot in the general classification.

There have been previous instances of riders declining to wear leader’s jerseys, most notably when Chris Froome did so for one stage of the 2015 Tour de France following the injury-enforced withdrawal of Tony Martin.

While Thomas sympathised with the circumstances of Evenepoel’s exit, the Welshman intends to be in pink for the 196-kilometre stage from Scandiano to Viareggio following Monday’s rest day.

“Leading the race is a massive honour, but at the same time it’s not really the way you want to take the jersey,” he said. “That’s the way it is. I’ll definitely wear it with pride.

“It’s the first time I’ve worn the pink jersey. It’s not the best way of taking it, but I think for the race it’s still a good thing to keep it in the race. I just wish Remco well and hope he’s back soon.”

Evenepoel had established a 45-second advantage over the rest of the field and Thomas initially thought his rival was joking when contacted by the Soudal Quick-Step rider before the official announcement.

Primoz Roglic, who is Thomas’ immediate challenger just two seconds adrift after the first week, last week told the Ineos Grenadiers rider he had tested positive for Covid before the Slovenian backtracked and revealed he was joking.

“(Evenepoel) messaged me before the announcement,” Thomas said. “At first, I thought, ‘Is he winding me up a bit?’ After the whole Roglic stuff. But then there was the announcement and it was a surprise.”

Evenepoel was the sixth rider to leave the race with Covid, including Thomas’ team-mate Filippo Ganna. Thomas revealed he and the rest of the team are now taking precautions in an effort to minimise the risk of catching the virus.

“We just need to try to be a lot more aware of it and go back to what we used to do with Covid in 2020 or 2021, when we were in our own little bubble and we were wearing masks in public spaces,” he said.

“As a team we’re going to go back to that strategy. If everybody in the race does the same thing then it will stop other riders going home.”

Thomas will turn 37 later this month, on the day the race reaches stage 18 of 21, and was in a relaxed mood despite a chequered history at the Giro.

His best result in four attempts is 80th place, but Thomas, who finished third in last year’s Tour de France, insisted he was through trying to prove himself.

“It would be amazing (to win),” he added. “After 2020 I kind of thought that would be it for my chances of winning the Giro (he withdrew from that race after fracturing his pelvis on stage three).

“I don’t really feel too much pressure or expectation. I’d just love to take the opportunity.

“A lot of people seem to just write me off or whatever, but I feel like I just proved all that wrong last year and this is just a bonus round now.

“When you get towards the end of your career, you realise how lucky we are just to be able to race our bikes for a living. It’s not going to last forever and I want to make the most of it.”

Jonas Vingegaard went into the final weekend of the Tour de France with his yellow jersey all but assured.

It is the mountain stages that so typically settle the general classification in Grand Tours, and this edition of Le Tour proved no different.

A dominant ride on stage 18 saw Vingegaard, with admirable support from Sepp Kuss and Wout van Aert, drop two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar on the final ascent in the Pyrenees.

Vingegaard powered away on that last climb, leaving Pogacar in his wake, and well over three minutes behind overall in the hunt for the yellow jersey, as the Dane collected just a second Grand Tour stage win of his career, the first having come on July 13 to put him in command of the race.

That left Vingegaard merely needing to safely negotiate the final three stages – two sprint finishes and a time trial – and he did just that, parading into Paris on Sunday with his grip on the yellow jersey firmly intact. Now he is the champion, a remarkable feat considering where he has come from.

Pogacar's Slovenian compatriot Primoz Roglic has previously been Jumbo-Visma's main hope, but an exceptional team ride has also represented a passing of the baton to Vingegaard, the 25-year-old who four years ago was working at a fish factory to supplement his income. Vingegaard was recruited by the team based on a remarkable time up a daunting climb in Spain, which was subsequently posted to the popular training application Strava.

Jumbo-Visma have turned in a team performance for the ages. Their plan, and subsequent execution, has been near-perfect. Even the loss of Roglic, whose attention will now turn to winning yet another Vuelta a Espana title, could not derail this powerhouse unit heading into the final week.


Vingegaard's first win, on stage 11 up the Col du Granon, came as a result of Jumbo-Visma attacking early, luring Pogacar into responding, and draining the Slovenian's energy as the 23-year-old was proven to be a mere mortal after all.

Even when stacked up against the days of when Team Sky (now INEOS Grenadiers) dominated Le Tour, Jumbo-Visma's performance this time around has been something special. As a result, they are the first team to win the yellow, polka dot (Vingegaard) and green (Van Aert) jerseys at the same edition of the race since Faema managed the feat in 1969, thanks to the great Eddy Merckx.

Vingegaard is the second Dane to win the Tour de France after Bjarne Riis in 1996, and it is the first time since 1992 that the winner of the race has been a native of the country where it started, with the first three stages of this Tour having taken place across Denmark.

Not since 2006 (Michael Rasmussen) has a Dane won the polka jot jersey, though it is the third successive edition of Le Tour that the GC leader has also claimed the King of the Mountains classification, with Pogacar having done so in 2020 and 2021. Before 2020, it had happened only three times across the previous 50 races – Merckx in 1970, Carlos Sastre in 2008 and Chris Froome in 2015.

Van Aert, meanwhile, is another star. The 27-year-old finished in second place in the opening three stages before finally claiming victory at the fourth time of asking, and his decisive attack on Hautacam gave Vingegaard the platform he needed to end Pogacar's hopes.

A sprinter by trade but a brilliant climber to boot, Van Aert never looked likely to relinquish the green jersey, easily fending off Jasper Philipsen and Pogacar for that prize. He is the first Belgian rider to win the points classification of the Tour de France since Tom Boonen in 2007.

As for Pogacar, three in a row proved one triumph too many, but when you contrast the talents of UAE Team Emirates with Jumbo-Visma, his achievements so far must be considered even more remarkable.

The white jersey, which Pogacar won in each of the last two years for the best young rider, was retained. He has been leading the youth classification over each of the last 51 racedays in the Tour de France (from stage 13 in 2020 to stage 21 in 2022), which is the longest run of consecutive racedays in the first place of a specific classification.


Pogacar will surely be back out to regain his crown in 2023 and along with Vingegaard could dominate for years to come, though do not count out Tom Pidcock from one day contesting for a jersey.

On his Grand Tour debut, the 22-year-old Briton has mightily impressed. His triumph on the famous Alpe d'Huez will go down in the record books. He not only broke the 100km/h mark on a descent, but became the youngest stage winner on the mountain in Le Tour history, breaking a 38-year record held by Lucho Herrera.

Pidcock, who won gold on the mountain bike at the Tokyo Olympics, is the 15th British rider to win a Tour de France stage, but just the second to do so on the Alpe d'Huez after Geraint Thomas, who at 36 has battled to a brilliant third-place finish overall.

It might well be the 2018 champion's swan song at Le Tour, while another veteran campaigner, Nairo Quintana, came in sixth in the general classification. That is Quintana's first top-10 Grand Tour finish since the 2019 Vuelta a Espana, and his best performance in this race since 2016.

Tom Pidcock marked his Tour de France debut with a stunning ride on stage 12, while race leader Jonas Vingegaard held off Tadej Pogacar.

Up the famous Alpe d'Huez, on Bastille Day, Olympic gold medallist Pidcock stormed to a remarkable, record-setting triumph – his first Grand Tour stage win.

Having attacked with 10 kilometres of the climb remaining, approaching the culmination of a 165.5km ride on Thursday, the 22-year-old Yorkshireman saw off Louis Meintjes to claim a remarkable triumph.

In the process, Pidcock – who was part of a five-man breakaway that took a six-minute time gap to the foot of the final ascent – became the youngest stage winner up the Alpe d'Huez in Le Tour history, breaking the record held by Lucho Herrera since 1984.

Yet Pidcock's tale was not the only incredible story of a quite sensational stage, with four-time champion Chris Froome claiming third, having planted himself in the breakaway group. While the yellow jersey is far out of the 37-year-old's reach, his performance echoed the form he was able to show in the years prior to his serious crash in 2019.

Behind the lead group, the fascinating general classification tussle between new leader Vingegaard and two-time defending champion Pogacar unfolded, hinting at the drama that is sure to come over the coming stages.

Pogacar twice attacked late on, yet Jumbo-Visma's Vingegaard kept pace.

The GC rivals pushed on for a sprint finish, with Pogacar nosing ahead to claim fifth place, though he was unable to damage Vingegaard, while Pidcock's INEOS Grenadier's team-mate Geraint Thomas, who conquered the mountain while wearing yellow in 2018, put himself into the top three in the overall standings.

But the day belonged to Pidcock, who after ploughing on to victory through thousands of vociferous spectators, said: "That was unbelievable, one of the craziest experiences ever. I can hardly hear anything, I've probably got hearing damage!

"That was ridiculous, at many points I thought I was going to get taken out."

Team GB's golden boy a speed demon

Pidcock is a star on the mountain bike, and those technical skills came in handy on the descent of the Col du Galibie, which preceded the climb up Alpe d'Huez. He clocked a top speed of 100km/h on the way down, while he averaged 19.7km/h on his way up to the summit finish.

"That is a record, I've never been over 100k before. It helps when there's a race to go for, doesn't it?" he said. 

"I'm lucky that I can descend or I wouldn't have won today. I don't think there was any way of me getting away at the start of the stage but I knew if the break was close enough at the top, I could go across on the descent because it was pretty twisty. I'm lucky Froomey was in front, we worked well together."

Froome, who won his first Tour de France when Pidcock was just 13, said: "He was flying down the descents today. His bike handling probably came in handy, there were a few times where I held back a bit because I was definitely at the limit."


1. Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) 4:55:24
2. Louis Meintjes (Intermarche–Wanty–Gobert Materiaux) +0:48
3. Chris Froome (Israel–Premier Tech) +2:06
4. Neilson Powless (EF Education–EasyPost) +2:29
5. Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates) +3:23


General Classification

1. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) 46:28:46
2. Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates) +2:22
3. Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) +2:26

Points Classification

1. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) 313
2. Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates) 159
3. Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 155

King of the Mountains

1. Simon Geschke (Cofidis) 43
2. Louis Meintjes (Intermarche–Wanty–Gobert Materiaux) 39
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) 36

Tadej Pogacar hailed a "special day" at the Tour de France after digging deep to edge out Jonas Vingegaard in an enthralling finish, as he extended his overall lead with back-to-back stage victories.

Defending champion Pogacar took the yellow jersey with a terrific ride over a mammoth stage six on Thursday, but was pushed hard by both Vingegaard and Lennard Kamna en route to La Planche des Belles Filles the following day.

Kamna was the first to make his move in pursuit of a breakaway win, going clear before being hauled in by Vingegaard on a gruelling 24-per-cent climb.

But with the Dane looking set to claim his first-ever stage win at the Tour, the imperious Pogacar snatched the lead with just 25 metres remaining in a captivating finish, extending his general classification lead in the process.

Having returned to the site of his major breakthrough in 2020, where Pogacar took the yellow jersey en route to his first Tour de France title, the Slovenian said he had been particularly focused for the race's first mountain stage.

"It was really, really difficult, especially in the last part where Jonas attacked, he was so strong," Pogacar said. "But my boys were working all day, so I had to push to the finish line. 

"It was a really special day. We opened a foundation today for cancer research, so I wore special shoes just for today, and I'm really happy proud to take this win on Planche des Belles Filles.

"It was in my mind already for a really, really long time, maybe since the route was announced, and it was difficult to win today.

"I think right now Vingegaard is one of the strongest climbers in the world, probably the best climber in the world, and a really compact rider with a really strong team around him."

While Vingegaard was second over the line, Kamna dropped to fourth behind Primoz Roglic, with 2018 champion Geraint Thomas following in fifth to move into the top three of the general classification rankings.

Pogacar doubles up to strengthen grasp on lead

Pogacar's seemingly unshakeable grasp on the Tour de France's yellow jersey was strengthened as he posted back-to-back stage wins. 

The Slovenian has now won two more stages at the Tour than any other rider since the start of 2020 (Wout van Aert is second with six), as he replicated his consecutive triumphs over stages 17 and 18 en route to last year's title.


1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 3:58:40
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) same time 
3. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +0:12
4. Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0:14
5. Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) +0:14


General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 24:43:14
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +0:35
3. Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) +1:10

Points Classification

1. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) 203
2. Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 140
3. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 108

King of the Mountains

1. Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education-EasyPost) 11
2. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 10
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) 8

"I'm just a kid from Slovenia, watching television all day and then riding afterwards," said Tadej Pogacar, after winning the 2020 Tour de France.

Then just 21, he required a 57-second swing to overtake his compatriot Primoz Roglic on the final time trial.

He went on to win the grandest of the Grand Tours by 59 seconds, writing his name forever into cycling history as he won Le Tour on his debut.

There was less drama in 2021, as Pogacar easily retained the three jerseys he won in 2020 (the yellow for the general classification, polka dot for the mountains and white for the best young rider).

While Olympic glory went to Roglic, Pogacar is out to match the great Eddy Merckx in the record books as he returns to Grand Tour action after skipping the Giro d'Italia.

The race starts in Copenhagen on Friday, with the opening three stages winding their way through Denmark – the 10th nation other than France to host the Grand Depart.

Can anyone hope to stop Pogacar in the 109th edition of Le Tour, or is there just no matching the kid from Slovenia?


Pogacar has Merckx in his sights

Only Merckx has managed to win the Tour de France on each of his first three appearances in the race (the Belgian went on to win his first five in a row, remarkably), but a place in history is there for the taking for Pogacar.

He is already the youngest rider to win multiple yellow jerseys, at the age of 22 years and 301 days at the culmination of the 2021 Tour, while he has led the young rider classification for the last 30 stages in total, since stage 13 in 2020, which is the longest run since the white jersey was first awarded in 1975.

Pogacar is also aiming to become the first rider to win the king of the mountains jersey in three successive editions of the Tour de France since popular French rider Richard Virenque between 1994 and 1997.

"The Tour de France is the jewel in the crown. It's the one that the road cyclists do all want to win," Chris Hoy, one of the United Kingdom's greatest Olympians, told Stats Perform.

"As such, it's quite hard to predict. But Pogacar is one of these young phenomenal athletes who have shown such maturity, despite their years."


Roglic out for revenge

Roglic won the Criterium du Dauphine earlier in June, and looks well placed to push for what would be his fourth Grand Tour success, albeit his first outside of Spain.

The chance was cruelly snatched away in 2020, while Roglic was forced to abandon ahead of stage nine last year following a crash six stages prior.

Roglic is aiming to become the oldest rider to win the Tour de France since Cadel Evans in 2011 (34 years and 162 days).

He will be 32 years old and 268 days on the last day of this year's race, but is the prime contender from a strong Jumbo-Visma team.

Their line-up includes six-time Tour de France stage winner Wout van Aert, Jonas Vingegaard, who finished second overall in 2021, and Sepp Kuss, an exceptional climber who last year became the first American to win a stage at the Tour de France since Tyler Farrar in 2011, while Steven Kruijswijk is one of three riders in the squad to have finished on the GC podium before.

Van Aert is the pick of the supporting cast, with his six stage wins between 2019 and 2021 the joint-highest in that period alongside Pogacar.

Indeed, the Belgian won the final two stages last year and could become the first rider to win three successive individual stages (not including time trials) at Le Tour since Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi in 2003.

No Bernal, but INEOS looking strong

Egan Bernal has not yet fully recovered from a serious crash he suffered earlier this year, meaning INEOS Grenadiers are without one of the best in the business.

Yet their team is still one to be reckoned with. Captain Geraint Thomas is one of just three riders in the provisional start list to have won Le Tour (along with Pogacar and Chris Froome), with the Welshman heading to France on the back of his sole victory of 2022 so far, in the Tour de Suisse.

Only Merckx (in 1974) and Bernal (2019) have won both the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France in the same season, and while a Thomas push for GC glory looks unlikely, INEOS have real depth.

Tom Pidcock is one of the brightest prospects in cycling, having triumphed in the Tokyo Olympic Games mountain biking and the World Championships (cyclo-cross).

He is riding alongside Adam Yates, the winner of the white jersey in 2016, and time trial world champion Filippo Ganna.

Stage 20 between Lacapelle-Marival and Rocamadour (40.7km) will be the longest individual time trial in the Tour de France since 2014, and Ganna, a six-time stage winner at the Giro d'Italia, will be looking to come to the fore there.

Cavendish denied a shot at history

Despite Pogacar's dominance, Mark Cavendish provided the most remarkable story at the 2021 Tour de France. His comeback was one for the ages.

Cavendish had not featured at the Tour de France in 2016, but last year he won four stages to match the overall record of Merckx (34 stage victories) that had stood since 1975.


The Manxman was unable to surpass it on the Champs-Elysees, however, and his chance of becoming the outright record holder may well have gone, after Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl went with Fabio Jakobsen (who has 10 sprint wins this season) as their sprinter.

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team riders have led the points classification in the Tour de France in each of the last 33 stages of the race, with three of their riders winning the green jersey in that time. Julian Alaphilippe is one of them, but like Cavendish he has missed out.

France out of luck?

Alaphilippe has won six of the last nine stages won by a French rider in the Tour de France, and would have been aiming to become the first home rider to win a stage at five consecutive editions since Bernard Hinault (1978-1982).

As it is, Alaphilippe will have to watch on, and with that France's slim hopes of a home success seem to have dwindled further still.

Romain Bardet has achieved five top-10 finishes in the GC standings. That is the most for a French rider since Virenque (six between 1994 and 2000), yet Bardet has finished only two of his last four Grand Tours and it would be a shock if the Team DSM man challenged.

Pierre Rolland will participate in his 13th Tour de France, the joint-highest tally among all riders on the provisional start list, alongside Imanol Erviti, while Thibaut Pinot will make his first Grand Tour start since the 2020 Vuelta a Espana, when he abandoned after two stages. This will be his ninth appearance in La Grande Boucle, but he has finished only four times.

The last time a Frenchman did not win a stage was in 1999 – since then, 59 stages have been won by French riders – but you might not bet against that run ending this year.

Geraint Thomas has committed his future to the INEOS Grenadiers after signing a new two-year deal, claiming he is "still super motivated".

The 35-year-old will now remain with the team until 2024, having joined when it was formed in 2010.

The Welshman insists that his passion for the sport has not wavered and reveals that he intends to make the most of the time he has left in his professional career.

"I'm still super motivated to work hard and train hard," Thomas said to the INEOS Grenadiers official website. "That's what I love doing. I still really enjoy riding my bike, pushing myself.

"When you can see the finish line of your professional sporting career, you want to make the most of it every day and make it all count."

Despite a difficult end to the last season, Thomas is looking forward to competing and believes he can still hold his own at the highest level.

"Obviously I had a tough end to 2021 but up until the crash at the Tour, I was in the best shape I’d been," Thomas continued. "I'm still very motivated to perform in the biggest races.

"I'll probably look at doing the Ardennes which I've never done properly. That's exciting and new, and hopefully, then go on the Tour to play a big role there.

"I'm super excited about the last few years of my career with the team. It's going to be fun - that’s the main thing.

"People keep asking me what my role will be and obviously I want to keep winning myself, but being a part of a winning team and having fun with some of my best mates is as important - ​​and to do that I'll need to be at my best."

There was plenty of drama in Tokyo on Tuesday and that is set to continue as the Olympic Games ramps up further on Wednesday.

A titanic tussle in the swimming pool should be well worth watching, but action on the bikes and in the basketball court will also draw plenty of eyes.

Stats Perform guides you through the events not to be missed.


Katie Ledecky is one of the dominant forces in the pool, taking gold in each of her prior four individual Games finals since her 2012 debut as she headed to Tokyo, but she was upset in the 2020 opener.

Ariarne Titmus, the 20-year-old Australian, beat the United States' world record holder by more than half a second in the 400m freestyle final.

Now, Titmus is coming for Ledecky's crown again as the pair do battle in the 200m freestyle, where another victory would send a significant message.


There are no shortage of big names in the men's time trial, with a number of Grand Tour winners involved – including Geraint Thomas, no doubt determined to put on a show after his fall in the road race.

The last two men to head out perhaps represent the most likely Olympic champions, though, as Wout van Aert and Filippo Ganna go for gold.

Van Aert won the final two stages of the Tour de France, including a time trial on the penultimate day of the race.


The first rowing medals of the Games are to be handed out on Wednesday, and the women's four – back in the Olympics for the first time in 30 years – should provide plenty of intrigue.

World champions Australia changed their line-up for the Olympics, having not competed internationally since taking their title in 2019. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, world silver medallists and back-to-back European champions, have been dominant.

The two teams won their respective heats, but Australia's time of six minutes and 28.76 seconds was an Olympic best and almost five seconds quicker than the Dutch. Whether that chasm will remain when the boats are side by side is another matter.


There is more gymnastics action to look forward, with the men's individual final taking place.

Home hope Daiki Hashimoto qualified with the best score and was outstanding for Japan in the team event, yet could only take silver as the hosts were pipped by the Russian Olympic Committee.

It was Nikita Nagornyy's floor routine which sealed that Russian success and he will be bidding for another gold, having trailed Hashimoto in second in qualification.


The United States' latest men's basketball title defence started in miserable fashion with a defeat to France, the team who eliminated them at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

It was Team USA's first Olympics loss since 2004, but it is highly unlikely a second will follow as they face Iran. A big performance is needed regardless to calm the critics.

While France delivered the upset in the basketball, they face their own humiliation in the football. Only a two-goal win against hosts Japan, themselves needing a point, will secure progress through Group A for Les Bleus.

Geraint Thomas, Primoz Roglic and Peter Sagan were among the big names to crash during an incident-packed Stage 3 of the Tour de France, one that saw Tim Merlier take victory.

Aided by the work of his Alpecin–Fenix colleagues, Merlier was able to come out on top in a sprint finish, crossing the line ahead of team-mate Jasper Philipsen at the end of the 182.9-kilometre journey from Lorient to Pontivy.

"I'm living the dream, I think," the Belgian said in his post-stage interview.

"After the Giro d'Italia I wasn't really very happy, but now I've won a stage on the Tour - the biggest race in the world - I can't believe it."

Having won on Sunday, Mathieu van der Poel was seventh this time around as he retained the yellow jersey, making it a double celebration for the Alpecin-Fenix squad.

However, there was little to cheer about for 2018 winner Thomas, who suffered a shoulder injury following a heavy fall in the early going that saw Robert Gesink forced to retire from the race.

That was far from the end of the drama, though. Roglic came a cropper with just under 10km remaining, leading to him losing over a minute in the standings.

Defending champion Tadej Pogacar's progress was then delayed by a mass pile-up not long after the breakaway group was caught, while Sagan's spillage came when he tangled with Caleb Ewan in the closing metres.

Pogacar sits in sixth place in the general classification, now 38 seconds behind Van der Poel. Julian Alaphilippe remains in second, while Richard Carapaz is up to third, sitting on the same time as Wout van Aert.


1. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) 4:01:28
2. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix)
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic)
4. Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
5. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious)


General Classification 

1. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 12:58:53
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +00:08
3. Richard Carparaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +00:31

Points Classification 

1. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 80
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 62
3. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) 50 

King of the Mountains 

1. Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) 5
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 4
3. Anthony Perez (Cofidis) 3

Tadej Pogacar emulated Eddy Merckx with his historic Tour de France victory last year and could face an epic battle with compatriot Primoz Roglic this time around.

Tour debutant Pogacar became the first Slovenian to win the race last September, on the eve of his 22nd birthday.

The UAE-Team Emirates rider is the favourite as he attempts to go back-to-back in a race that starts in Brest on Saturday, but Roglic is a man on a mission after missing out on the 2020 title to his countryman in dramatic fashion.

Geraint Thomas, the 2018 champion, will go in search of a second Tour triumph and Richard Carapaz could also mount a challenge, with Egan Bernal not in the INEOS Grenadiers line-up following his Giro d'Italia triumph.

Chris Froome, winner of the general classification on four occasions, will play a support role in the Israel Start-Up Nation team for Michael Woods, while Mark Cavendish was given a late call-up.

Here, Stats Perform picks out the big stories and standout Opta facts ahead of the 108th edition of the prestigious Grand Tour race, which finishes in Paris on July 18.



Pogacar went down as the second-youngest winner of the Tour last year behind Frenchman Henri Cornet way back in 1904.

A sensational time-trial ride on the penultimate stage up the Planche des Belles Filles saw Pogacar snatch the yellow jersey from Roglic.

Pogacar won the Tour of Slovenia this month, while Roglic should be refreshed as he will line up for the Grand Depart having not raced for two months.

The defending champion was the first rider to win the yellow jersey, polka dot jersey (mountains classification) and white jersey (young rider classification) in the same Tour de France and will have to deal with a weight of expectation over the new few weeks.

Roglic looked to have the title in the bag last year until Pogacar produced the ride of his life to leave his fellow Slovenian shellshocked.



There will be six mountain stages, three of which will end with high-altitude finishes in a race that will see the riders head to Andorra.

A double climb of Mont Ventoux during the 190-kilometre stage 11 from Sorgues to Malaucene will provide a huge test.

There will also be two individual time trials, on stage five from Change to Laval and the penultimate stage from Libourne to Saint-Emilion.

A 249.1km stage seven from Vierzon to Le Creusot will be the longest in the Tour for 21 years, finishing with a demanding ascent of the Signal d'Ucho and with 3,000 metres of elevation to tackle overall.



Julian Alaphilippe will be the first Frenchman to compete in the Tour as world champion since Laurent Brochard in 1998.

The world champion was one of the main protagonists at the Tour de Suisse this month but does not expect to mount a challenge to become the first French winner of the yellow jersey since Bernard Hinault in 1985.

Deceuninck-QuickStep rider Alaphilippe said: "The main goal at Le Tour will be to get a stage victory. To raise my hands there, at the biggest race in the world, with the world champion jersey on my shoulders, would be something really special.

"The first week is going to be an important one, with several opportunities. We will give our best there, as we always do. A successful Tour for me would be a beautiful victory and to show some good things together with the team."



Mark Cavendish was given a late call-up to end a three-year wait to compete again in the Tour.

The 36-year-old was on Monday named as Deceuninck-QuickStep's lead sprinter after 2020 green jersey winner Sam Bennett was ruled out due to injury.

Cavendish hinted that he might be ready to retire after the Gent-Wevelgem last year, but he has been resurgent in 2021.

Only the legendary Merckx (34) has more Tour stage victories than Cavendish's tally of 30.


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