Another Tour de France stage earmarked for the sprinters, another day where the victor did not come from a bunch sprint.
After crossing the Pyrenees during the week, the peloton’s fast men were confident of contesting stage 19’s finish into Cahors, but instead Jumbo-Visma’s Christophe Laporte took the honours, the Frenchman attacking inside the final uphill 500 metres to deny the sprinters.
Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s expected ceremonial stage in Paris, the 2022 Tour de France will be recorded as the edition with the least number of bunch sprints in it this century with a maximum of four.
Ahead of the final weekend, bunch sprints have only been contested on three occasions, only one of which took place on French soil, last Sunday’s stage in Carcassonne won by Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck).
A deflated Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) finished 3-28 behind, and he told Cycling Weekly at the finish that he was disappointed about the paucity of sprint opportunities in the race this year.
“Frustrating day, I don’t know?” the Dutchman said. “I think so far in this Tour de France we’ve only had two [three - ed] bunch sprints, because with finals like this it’s not really a bunch sprint. At least not for the pure sprinters, but it is what it is.
"It’s up to the organisation; it’s their choice. But like this year there aren’t many chances for sprinters which would automatically mean that maybe there won’t be as many sprinters in the Tour [in future years], but we will wait for the parcours next year.
“If you ask my opinion, of course [he’d say he wants more sprints] because I’m a sprinter. But this Tour there has been a lot of uphill, probably more a Tour for Julian Alaphilippe and you see that we are missing him.”
Lotto-Soudal’s Caleb Ewan was succinct with his verdict of stage 19. “I felt good, a perfect finish for me, so I’m very disappointed. [I’m] confident still [about Paris] but disappointed that it was another s**t sprint.”
Dylan Groenewegen won stage three of the race and his BikeExchange-Jayco team were hoping that he could double up on Friday’s stage.
But they were aware of the uphill finish of the stage, with Matt White, the team’s DS, saying: “We knew it was a uphill kick from the corner. We did a recon on the course, and [fellow DS] Mat Hayman drove the course a couple of weeks before the Tour de France so we had videos and we knew everything.
“Laporte played it tactically very well. We knew it would be a dangerous race to control today, just because we’re so late in the race and the way the race has been run there is a lot of tired boys.
“You seen the explosion in the final there: one because it was hilly, and two because of the load the guys have had over the last couple of weeks. Also, we knew it was a tactical run-in and when guys are tired, wheels get let go. I don’t know how many guys there were contesting the sprint but there was probably about 20 guys.”
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