Chris Froome proved that his strong performance in Mercan’Tour Classic one month before the Tour was not a fluke and finished third from a breakaway on stage 12, beating such strong climbers as Giulio Ciccone and Neilson Powless on Alpe d’Huez. There was a stalemate in the GC battle between Pogacar and Vingegaard whilst Quintana and Gaudu suffered, with Kuss, Pogačar, Vingegaard, Mas and Thomas setting the fastest times on the legendary climb since 2006.
Stage 12 was another hard day in the mountains. Riders definitely felt fatigue in the legs after the Col du Granon mountain top finish the day before and the sweltering heat throughout the stage. Jumbo-Visma controlled the peloton and set a high pace on Alpe d’Huez with their mountain train Van Aert, Benoot, Kruisjwijk, Roglič and Kuss.
After a sub-par performance on Col du Granon, there were doubts about Pogačar’s legs on another hot day, but on Alpe d’Huez he proved that he had recovered pretty well. He attacked Vingegaard multiple times and dropped everyone else but the Dane followed easily without countering Pogačar’s attacks. Vingegaard must take as much time as possible as there is no way to know if his legs will be this good in the third week and Pogačar could take at least one minute in stage 20 time-trial if Vingegaard has a bad day. Jumbo-Visma rode defensively and paced hard in the mountains in the 2020 Tour, when Primož Roglič was in the maillot jaune, trying to nurse a one minute lead into the final time trial.
After Pogačar failed to drop Vingegaard; Kuss, Mas and Thomas came back and they finished together in a small group sprint, setting the fastest time on Alpe d’Huez since 2006. They climbed it in 39:12 min, pushing 6.08 w/kg, except Kuss, who did 6.12 because he did not draft as much but also did not respond to any accelerations. In 2006, Andreas Klöden and Floyd Landis did the famous climb in 38 minutes and 35 seconds. The record holder is Marco Pantani, who in 1995 set an unbreakable record of 36:50 with an estimated power of 6.80 w/kg – untouchable in today’s era.
Chris Froome finished third from a breakaway on Alpe d’Huez, out-climbing Neilson Powless and Giulio Ciccone. Froome is not near his peak Sky form, but this definitely was one of the best performances since his crash and his best in an Israel jersey.
Froome did Alpe d’Huez in 44 minutes, which is around 3 minutes slower than in 2013, 2015 and 2018, when he was riding it in the GC group, not from a breakaway.
Thomas Pidcock did Alpe d’Huez in 41:54 minutes, which is a second faster than Aleksandr Vlasov’s time, who was riding in the peloton. If Pidcock was riding in the GC group for the entire stage he of course would have climbed Alpe d’Huez much faster.
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Geraint Thomas won on Alpe d’Huez in 2018, but today he was faster by more than 2 minutes. In the 2018 Tour the pace was not that steady on the climb, but today Thomas’ arguably did maybe his greatest performance ever, considering how hard the stage was the previous day and the heat once again today.
Tadej Pogačar after a disaster on Col du Granon, gained his watts back, doing a normal performance for his standards.
Vingegaard still probably could have gone harder, considering that on Col du Granon after he attacked he did 6,47w/kg for 15 minutes at more than 2000 metres above sea level.
Enric Mas in the previous stage lost more than 8 minutes, but today he was again in his normal shape too. Maybe altitude was the problem for Spaniard, who did well on Col de la Loze in the 2020 Tour but struggled on Portet and Granon in the last two years.
The riders take a break from the mountains for now, with some hilly transition stages until they reach the Pyrenees on stage 17.