Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) surprised no one by winning the Stage 20 Individual Time-Trial at the 2022 Tour de France in a time of 47:59.86.
Adding to an amazing 2022 Tour de France for him and his Jumbo-Visma team, the Belgian – resplendent in his green skinsuit – simply knocked chucks of time off of everyone who'd gone out before him at each checkpoint to come in 42 seconds ahead of Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), who was leading until then.
So quickly was Van Aert going while out on the course, team cars of riders who'd set off before him were being instructed to pull over as he was "coming up fast".
His teammate Jonas Vingegaard, leading the race overall, went out hard and for a time looked like he might take the stage win, but knocked the pace off a bit after a scary moment on a descent in the last third of his TT.
Solidifying their places in the overall General Classification, second place Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and third place Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) also raced hard – with the latter riding a negative split to make the result look like it might be closer than it had appeared in the earlier kilometres.
Those two riders went either slightly above or slightly below Van Aert's splits over the course of the 40.7km route, but never looked likely to topple either of the Jumbo-Visma riders for stage honours.
Ultimately, Van Aert had paced it best and took the stage. However, the best three riders in the General Classification showed why they deserve to be on the podium in Paris on Sunday evening, with Vingegaard second, Pogacar third and Thomas fourth on the stage.
Stage 20 at the 2022 Tour de France: How it unfolded
With all the focus on the top of the GC, and all three riders who started the day on the podium also more-than-competent against the clock – as we came to see, it would be easy to completely disregard the other 135 riders still left in this race.
But with a number of teams having failed to get a stage win this Tour, they would be pushing their best time-triallists to try and end that spell – and most of them had to know in advance that they would be disappointed.
After his huge turns in the mountains earlier in the week but then a notable absence from the business end more recently, Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) was clearly feeling good when he woke up this morning as he set an impressive early time of 50:22:25 which saw him occupy the hot seat before that time was beaten by a marauding Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), who came in with a time of 48:41.10.
When he crossed the line, it looked very much like Ganna may have had the stage win wrapped up but there were several riders who had other ideas.
Due to Tom Pidock’s spectacular ride up Alpe d’Huez and Geraint Thomas’s well won third place overall, Ineos Grenadiers's whole Tour wasn’t relying on Ganna’s ride today to count as a success, but they surely would have wanted to add to the team’s takeaways from a fast three weeks through Denmark and France.
After his surprise win on Stage 1 – surprising himself as much as anyone – Yves Lampaert (QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl) couldn’t repeat the feat. QuickStep's stage win count would surely have been higher with Mark Cavendish in their ranks, although today would obviously not have been a stage for the Manxman.
Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost) would have wanted to put his terrible opening day TT behind him with a performance today, but an early bike change and then a chat with a Groupama-FDJ rider – who shared a sip of his bidon, which Bissegger's spare bike had been lacking – showed that the Swiss rider appeared to have lost all motivation. He rolled in a long way off the pace.
London's finest, Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), had another solid day on the bike including going through the first time check ahead of Ganna's time. He finished 50 seconds down on the world champion, but was third best at the time he finished. At some point in the next week or so the young Brit is going to realise just how well he's done at this year's Tour de France.
European champion Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) started well but faded throughout the course, crossing the line in provisional sixth but with many fast riders still out on the course or yet to start.
Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) did his Dutch national jersey justice with a very strong performance, after arguably a quiet Tour, but it wasn't enough for a stage win.
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) rode a solid but steady TT to confirm his place in fourth overall. Behind Gaudu, Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) and Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) were sparring for fifth and sixth on the GC – until, that is, Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) came steaming through and pushed them further down the GC.
Meintjes was also overhauled by Romain Bardet (Team DSM), dropping two places on the day after a torrid time on his TT bike.
Once Vingegaard was off the start ramp, meaning all riders had started, and Van Aert was closing in on the finish line, it was a case of waiting to see if any of the GC favourites could take a final stage win before the sprint finish tomorrow – which Van Aert will probably win as well.
Tour de France 2022: Stage 20 results
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 47:59.86
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 19 seconds
3. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 27
4. Geraint Thomas (GBR) Ineos Grenadiers, at 32
5. Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers, at 42
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 1:22
7. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl, at 1:25
8. Fred Wright (GBR) Bahrain Victorious, at 1:32
9. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1:37
10. Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious, at 1:48
General classification after Stage 20
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, in 76-33-57
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 3-34
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 8-13
4. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 13-56
5. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 16-37
6. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkea-Samsic, at 17-24
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 19-02
8. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux, at 19-12
9. Aleksey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan, at 23-47
10. Adam Yates (GBR) Ineos Grenadiers, at 25-43
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1