Inevitably, when one sells “the northernmost start in the history of the Tour de France”, the sun is not guaranteed by the organization. Fervor yes. In Copenhagen on Friday July 1, bad weather did not deter Danes from attending the 13.2 km time trial en masse along the wide avenues of their capital.
On paper, this time won by the Belgian Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step) was not advertised as too technical, apart from a tight bend to come and greet the statue of the Little Mermaid and a very short cobblestone passage in front of the Royal Palace.
But, in town, when the rain comes to the party, any white line becomes a threat of falling. The favorites in the general classification and the stage victory had anticipated the threat by starting early. A bet on the weather more or less successful. The first yellow jersey of this 2022 edition started a little later, at 5:44 p.m., and a little after the worst of the downpour.
The smile is not the first thing that strikes at Yves Lampaert. The boy embodies the pure Flemish. Leek rather, the one he harvested in the parents’ fields. The first yellow jersey of the Tour 2022 is a tough guy, a wind and cobblestone lover. In short, the typical “Flahute” with cold humor, especially understandable for those who master this Dutch-Flemish dialect specific to the inhabitants of their region of Ingelmunster.
On arrival, the Quick-Step runner made his audience laugh, and in French. “I beat the great runner Wout van Aert, but I’m still the former Belgian time trial champion [in 2021]”, he says when he sees his compatriot come to greet him. Despite the mask, we almost guessed a smile from his dolphin. Van Aert knows Lampaert’s pedigree. In Belgium, a double winner of Through Flanders is something to be respected.
The country may have expected better from him. At 31, Lampaert has shown his limits on the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix still resists him (3rd in 2019, 5th in 2021), despite obvious predispositions. His season almost ended a few kilometers from the velodrome. A spectator too advanced and Lampaert performs a sun in the Willems sector, before falling on his back like a judoka. The podium had flown away, but the young dad was already happy to hug his very young son, Alois.
He was often presented as the favorite son of Patrick Lefevere. “He’s my rider, he’ll never leave our team,” the Quick-Step manager once said to ward off Trek’s interest. Still, Lampaert is nearing the end of his contract and there was no indication whether Lefevere would deliver on his promise after a disappointing Classics campaign.
But that was before drying off all the best riders on the sodden roads of Copenhagen. When he understood that the victory was assured, we even saw the “Flahute” of the fields wiping away a few tears. “This morning, I thought to myself that a top 10 would already be good, I am a good roller, but there are all the best in the world here, he confided, moved at the microphone of France Télévisions. I am yellow jersey, my career is already successful. »
On “four, five turns” of the route, Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis, 23rd, first Frenchman) said to himself: “Guys like van der Poel and Bissegger are going to enjoy themselves”. On arrival, for the second, it was rather grimace soup. The Swiss may have said he was a “fan” of the new candy pink jersey with two fluorescent yellow dinosaurs from his EF Education-EasyPost team, he was hoping to exchange it for a yellow tunic.
Designated as one of the favorites for this inaugural time, the Thurgovian, chose to start among the first runners, in eighth position, when rain is announced for the end of the afternoon. Failed bet: the track specialist covered the 13.2 kilometers on a wet road… And his dream turned into a nightmare. Instead of being the first leader of the Tour, Bisseger inaugurated the fall section.
Twice: in a tight right-hand corner, then again just a few meters further. His teammate Neilson Powless saw the first gadin before leaving the bus to take the start. The American summarizes, pragmatically: “You had to give everything if he wanted to win. That’s what he did: he went for broke. It just wasn’t his day. So no yellow, but a few blue ones.
When Christophe Laporte lights “green” at the intermediate point, the hope of seeing a Frenchman put on the yellow jersey crosses the minds. A hope quickly evaporated. A few hectometres further on, the rider of the Jumbo-Visma made a mistake in a bend. A fall without consequence, except chronometric. “At the headset, I was told that I had the best time, it doesn’t change much to know it, it was just motivating”, confided to France Télévisions the one who drove faster than his leaders Wout van Aert and Primoz Roglic after 6.6 km.
At ease in short times, the former mountain biker was trying to understand this low-speed slide not far from the Little Mermaid. “I didn’t really think I was taking any risks, I was surprised when I arrived in the park. I pedaled a little too much before the turn, I made a mistake. It’s my fault. “But no time to ruminate. His training relies above all on his talents as a roller-sprinter to protect a Roglic in a 2nd stage open to all winds and all edges.
And during this time, discreetly, the double title holder achieved a new feat. We know that the Slovenian is never happier than on a rainy day. We also know that with him, no certainty holds… So, what does it matter if the route of this time trial was sold as too flat for him to compete with the exercise specialists. Cautious in the turns but author of incredible raises on the straights, the leader of UAE Emirates finished 3rd, just ahead of the reigning world champion, Filippo Gana.
His two main rivals in the general classification, Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic, are 8 and 9 seconds behind. So, yes, we are starting to know the phenomenon, after all he has not lost a stage race since the Tour of the Basque Country 2021. “I am confident, satisfied with my performance, even if it was tense, tight , reacted the person concerned. For me, this is one of the best starts of the Tour de France. »