Tour de France: Tom Pidcock wins on Alpe d’Huez as Vingegaard holds firm

In one of the most remarkable exhibitions of climbing and descending seen in the modern Tour de France, Tom Pidcock set out his stall as a future contender by becoming the youngest stage winner at Alpe d’Huez.

As the Olympic gold medallist rode to a memorable win on the famous hairpins, the defending champion, Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates, began his fightback against the race leader, Jumbo-Visma’s Jonas Vingegaard, although the Slovenian was unable to make any impact and is 2min 22sec behind in second.

Pidcock, who had been badgering his team management at Ineos Grenadiers for a free role, descended at 100kmh and climbed the 21 hairpins of the legendary ascent to the Alpe faster than his breakaway companions to stamp his mark on this year’s Tour.

“To ride up Alpe d’Huez, the most iconic finish in cycling, at the head of the race, that’s one of the best experiences of my life,” he said.

Asked what his team’s plan had been at the start in Briançon, Pidcock said: “To get me in the break and to try and win the stage. Box ticked.”

Champion in the mountain biking at the Tokyo Olympics, a cyclo-cross world champion and with multiple titles across cycling’s disciplines, Pidcock has long been ranked among the “Pogacar generation” of multi-talented riders such as the Slovenian, Mathieu van der Poel and Wout Van Aert, capable of excelling on all terrains. Even so, a dominant stage win on a course as brutal as this came as a surprise.

The 165km stage returned to the Col du Galibier, the platform for Vingegaard’s opening salvos on Pogacar’s lead during the 11th stage, where the Dane debunked Pogacar’s supposedly unbeatable status.

But on Bastille Day the pyrotechnics had a distinctly British feel: in a double-act that spanned the generations, Pidcock joined forces with the 37-year-old Chris Froome, now of Israel-Premier Tech, in pursuit of the day’s early attack.

“Froomey went and was in between,” Pidcock said, “and I thought I might as well give it a little dig down the other side. Then me and Chris Froome were riding across to the break in the Alpe d’Huez stage. That was cool.”

Pidcock’s breakneck descending, from the summit of the Galibier and on the slopes of the Croix de Fer, at speeds nudging 100kmh, was one of the most thrilling moments of the Tour and drew gasps of wonder from French TV commentators. Froome, clearly deciding discretion was the better part of valour, let the 22-year-old speed a little ahead.

The baking heat, long climbs and 30km descent from the Croix de Fer took their toll and as the breakaway began climbing the Alpe, the group reduced down to Pidcock, Froome and Louis Meintjes of Intermarché-Wanty Gobert.

Pidcock’s attack, 10km from the finish, took him clear and little by little, he eased ahead to seal a memorable win and his team’s first success in this year’s race.

But he is no shrinking violet and had made his intentions clear earlier in the race. “I’m not exactly satisfied with gaining experience, it’s a bit boring and dull,” he had said shortly after the Tour began. “I want to do something and make my impact on the race, that’s what I want to do. But riding around, gaining experience, that’s boring.”

Geraint Thomas, who moved up to third overall, four seconds behind Pogacar, is in the twilight of his career, and Adam Yates is still unproven, so Pidcock is now the coming British talent on the biggest stage in cycling. He has no qualms about making his ambitions clear.