All types of fun: another full throttle day at the Tour de France

It might have been quite the spectacle, but it was a brutal and breathless day at the Tour on stage 12

Once when riding through the Cairngorms mountains in the Scottish Highlands, five days into a week-long touring trip and exposed to endless torrential rain and sideways gales, I uttered to myself (and almost certainly loudly declared to my friend alongside me) that this low-point would perhaps see the end of any more long distance cycling on my part. Yet within the weeks following that dismal day, we were already planning our next trip. This was Type Two fun in full flow, my mind having helpfully erased the selective miseries to leave a tightly edited highlights package of enjoyable memories.

Type Two sits in the middle of the fun spectrum, between Type One (certain fun) and Type Three (not actually fun). It’s the type of fun that particularly empowers endurance athletes to keep returning to the kind of physical turmoil that can only be enjoyed in retrospect.

Stage 12 of the Tour de France felt like a very Type Two day for the riders. Even if Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) goes on to win the Tour this year, he’d be hard pushed to convince anyone that he enjoyed every moment of the breathless 80km that opened the race. The same for eventual stage winner Ion Izagirre (Cofidis), whose Type One fun could have only kicked in after he knew he’d secured victory within the final kilometre.

It was one of those stages where organiser ASO may as well have written BREAKAWAY in huge letters over the medium mountains of the stage 12 profile given its position in the race and the nature of the course.

From kilometre zero, the fun factor almost certainly belonged only to the spectators given the incredible pace and the attacking that lasted for two hours or more. No group was able to establish out front - though plenty of them were able to form out the back. For Caleb Ewan (Lotto Dstny), this may have been another full-on Type Three kind of day as he was dropped early and finished within seven minutes of the time cut alongside teammate Jasper De Buyst and almost 10 minutes down on the next best rider.

With the full throttle racing came a lack of control and for some a distinct lack of tactics. Jumbo-Visma seemed intent on getting someone in the break at any cost, putting Sepp Kuss right out the back for time and forcing Vingegaard to close an alarming amount of gaps. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) meanwhile seemed disappointed when it was all over and the break had finally gone, having coolly watched as Jumbo-Visma went hell-for-leather.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) might also look back and wonder if there were some better tactical choices to be made having been one of the 15 to actually make the coveted escape. Once there, he could only quell his itchy feet for an hour before launching free of the confines of the group with 44km left to race. Up to a point it seemed like a prudent move. The biggest of anyone in the breakaway, the Dutchman gave himself a useful 20-second buffer into the final 5km climb, handing himself a fighting chance of holding on to the group over the top of the climb.


Perhaps with the adrenaline of the stage’s opening sequences still coursing through him, he then inexplicably decided to try and follow the stinging winning attack of one of the group’s best climbers, Izagirre, with more than 2km to the summit. Van der Poel’s short-lived burst of speed to try and match the Basque quickly turned on its head and saw any chance of a stage victory vanish instantaneously.

Whether his presence there would have helped the remaining breakaway pursue the rampaging Izagirre feels unlikely anyway, given no-one would want to tow him all the way into the finish at Belleville-en-Beaujolais.

Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), who may already be struggling to take much Type Two fun away from the Puy de Dôme on Sunday, ended the day in a rueful manner as he missed out on victory from the break once again, appearing particularly annoyed at Thibaut Pinot’s (Groupama-FDJ) confusing tactic of refusing to cooperate despite trying to gain time on GC.

As of today, it may only be Izagirre and Cofidis that are immediately looking back with joy on the brutality of stage 12, having delivered victory for a team which celebrated its first Tour stage win in 15 years just 10 days ago.

Don’t worry though, the others will enjoy it eventually.

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