Tom Pidcock became the youngest winner, the first Olympic mountain bike champion and the first cyclocross world champion to win on Alpe d’Huez. The legendary climb was predictably packed with fans, creating the iconic narrow tunnels of people for the star riders to come through. Behind him, Louis Meintjes was 2nd and a resurgent Chris Frome reminded us of his quality by getting into the day’s break and finishing 3rd on the legendary 21 hairpins of the Tour de France climb.
The daunting 165-kilometre (102.5-mile) Stage 12 from Briancon featured three tough climbs so difficult that they are classified as “beyond category” — the Col du Galibier, the Col de La Croix de Fer and the climb to Alpe d’Huez.
Pidcock wasn’t involved in the break when it first went away but on the descent from the Col du Galibier, he made huge headway. It was a sight to behold watching the Brit fly down the climb, overtaking other riders on the outside at speed in a controlled yet daredevil way. Riders simply couldn’t stay on his wheel, such was the technical prowess of his cornering at speed. When the race hit the valley, a couple of 5 were working together – Pidcock, Froome, Meintjes, Neilson Powless and Giulio Ciccone. At this point, they were 6 minutes ahead of the peloton.
With 10.5km left to race at the bottom of the Alpe d’Huez, Pidcock attacked and left his breakaway companions. Powless and Ciccone dropped straight away and whilst Meintjes and Froome hung on for a bit longer, they also ultimately fell back from the rear wheel of the Ineos Grenadier rider.
“That was certainly one of my best experiences in cycling. It’s unreal when you’re literally slaloming through people’s flags, fists and God knows what else. You can’t experience that anywhere else other than the Alpe d’Huez in the Tour de France.
“You just have to pray that they move out of your way. The idea today was to get me into the break and win the stage. So, box ticked, I guess.”Tom Pidcock
Behind him, the GC battle was fought after a frenetic stage the day before. On the Alpe d’Huez it was more of a stalemate with yellow jersey wearer Jonas Vingegaard, Tadej Pogacar and Geraint Thomas all finishing at the same time.
A more defensive ride from Jumbo-Visma saw them recreate the old Team Sky mountain train. It was enough to distance successful riders from the day before like Romain Bardet and Nairo Quintana. Once reduced to just Sepp Kuss to assist Vingegaard, it was only with less than four kilometres to go that Pogacar could make his first move and Vingegaard followed easily. Also, he barely got out of the saddle when the second attack came.
“I think after yesterday I was not as confident as I thought I’d be,” Pogacar said candidly the day after the biggest defeat of his career.
I could have been stronger today but I’m ok with the result, it’s still a long way to go, the Tour is not over.
I know why I suffered yesterday, this will not happen again. I’m pretty confident. Jonas is super super strong but I need to find a way to regain some minutes.”Tadej Pogacar
The Alps have successfully turned this year’s Tour de France on its head.