Has ASO Tadej Pogacar validated the Tour de France 2022? They certainly tried.

How to Pog-proof the Tour de France?

This is the question that Christian Prudhomme and his bosses have been asking themselves for a few months.

The answer they found? Start the chaos race and hope something holds.

The 2022 Tour de France was fraught with pitfalls that could call into question the course of the two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar next summer.

Consider this: 19 kilometers of cobblestone, a series of stages with menacing crosswinds, an extra-long final TT and a gravel strip are all waiting to derail Pogacar as he pedals towards his yellow jersey hat-trick in 2022.

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“I won two Tours, so I’m more confident, but every year is different so it came back to zero,” said Pogačar. AFP after the presentation of the Tour de France route on Thursday. “There are a lot of tricky stages with wind or cobblestones or little climbs where you can go wrong, and the Alps look tough, Alpe d’Huez would be the big one.”

Every year, pressure is put on the race organizers, ASO, to produce a course against the defending champion in order to keep the race fresh and to encourage the eyes of sponsors to turn to the TV screens. .

The problem for Prudhomme and race director Thierry Gouvenou is that Pogacar can do almost anything. The 22-year-old won this year’s yellow jersey at a gallop with dazzling long-range attacks, short sprints to the top and unruffled strength against the clock.

Read also : Pogacar and Roglič, at the top of the grand tour hierarchy

And then there’s Pogacar’s compatriot turned comparator Primož Roglič, who has almost identical skills, albeit with an adjustment here and an adjustment there.

Laying banana peels

Roglič and Pogačar are so “complete” it hurts. (David Ramos / Getty Images)

With the two bulletproof-looking Slovenes, Prudhomme and Gouvenou had only one option available: to leave banana peels and hatches in as many places as possible.

The promise of winds blowing through the Danes Great departure and in several stages later in the race, it cannot be trained during the offseason or toned down during a team briefing. The 19 km of cobblestones – a third of the volume found at Paris-Roubaix, although crushed in a 155 km long stage – can dethrone even the most skilled GC rider in the space of a puncture.

Pogacar lost a lot of time in the 2020 Tour when a puncture left him out of position before the race broke in crosswinds on the stage to Lavaur. The 22-year-old was wary of similar losses next summer, especially on the peloton’s journey across the imposing Great Belt Bridge in Denmark.

“Windy stages are always tricky. Everyone is nervous for these steps. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens, ”said Pogacar. “I hope there is no wind, but it’s hard, when you have a 20 km bridge, nothing happens. It’s gonna be scary.

The nerves won’t stop there. Pogacar did not reach the pave since he raced the juniors of Paris-Roubaix in 2016 and has little experience of the Nordic classics. Roglič has not walked the streets of Roubaix in his life.

Tour third player Egan Bernal has perhaps the best off-road riding history thanks to his mountain biking experience and blazing race through the “bianche strade” of this year’s Giro.

Whether by accident or on purpose, Prudhomme could have leveled the playing field for the high-altitude climber of the peloton.

Pogacar Rattling Cage

The Ineos Grenadiers team 'Richard Carapaz from Ecuador (R) beats the UAE Emirates team' Tadej Pogacar from Slovenia wearing the leader's yellow jersey during the 17th stage of the 108th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, 178 km between Muret and Saint -Lary-Soulan, July 14, 2021. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP) (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP via Getty Images)
Nothing could shake Pogacar during this year’s Tour. (: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP via Getty Images)

Pogacar’s two Tour titles were marked by how he took the stress and scrutiny of the yellow jersey in his stride as much as by dominating his race. The loss of time on the Ventoux this summer or in the cross winds the year before met with easy acceptance in the evening and a crushing counter the next day.

Confidence does not go away. The victories at the memorials this season show that Pogačar is as confident as ever.

Pulling pave, crosswinds and gravel, the 2022 Tour of Prudhomme and Gouvenou will not allow Pogacar to get comfortable. Instead, a constantly varied course with little room for rhythm will make Pogačar a real pot under pressure.

Route recce, team selection and equipment testing could be more crucial than ever in stabilizing pre-race nerves. The cobblestone sections will need more than one reconnaissance trip, and the recently reinforced Pogacar mountaineering crew in the UAE will need a strong set of riders to complete them in week one.

Time trial times

Tadej Pogacar on the time trial of stage 20 of the Tour de France 2021.
Pogacar was so far ahead on stage 20 of this year’s Tour that he could have coasted down the start ramp. (: James Startt)

Like Roglič, Pogacar is the model of modern grand tourers, but in very high definition. Like Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin and Geraint Thomas before, they can both climb and time trial.

Although Pogacar won one of two ITTs in this year’s Tour, Prudhomme’s final piece in his 2022 Pog event could actually be the penultimate stage time trial.

Pogačar did not endure the seizure of the third week as Roglič sadly experienced in the past. He crushed Roglič’s dreams with the last uphill TT in 2020, and had such a huge buffer at Stage 20 this year that he could almost coast down the start ramp of the Saint-Émilion test this summer. .

But with 40 km long and around 400 meters of elevation gain, the 20 TT stage in preparation for 2022 breaks the mold of the modern grand tour time trial. It’s the longest since 2014, more hilly than normal, and paves the way for drama.

Pogacar will be spending as much time on his TT bike as he is on his cobblestone machine this winter.

“The first TT is completely flat, the second is quite long and difficult,” he said. “It’s after three weeks and you never know what might happen next. You can then sink into it completely because you have bad legs. I’ll have to train for the time trial.

The 2022 Tour is far from being Pog-proof. But Prudhomme has tried.

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