At the end came the question that many are still asking themselves given the pictures from the Tour de France 2022, which found its finale on Sunday in Paris with the stage victory of Belgian Jasper Philipsen. Jonas Vingegaard was asked before the final chord of the biggest cycling spectacle in the world whether everything was going right with him and his dominating team, Jumbo-Visma.
So the Dane spoke: “We are totally clean. All of us. I can speak for the whole team. None of us take anything forbidden.”
Sentences like this were more common in cycling in the past, but the half-life was often rather short. Could the Tour de France really have been successfully contested without any prohibited aids? And how can a lowlander from Jutland, where the highest “mountain” measures just 173 meters, suddenly become a summiteer in the toughest bike race in the world?
Skepticism is appropriate, but the presumption of innocence also applies and a look at what has improved in cycling in recent years – especially when it comes to doping. There has long been a new generation of professionals who can convincingly convey that there has been a change in thinking. Widespread manipulations, as they were the order of the day some time ago, are actually hardly imaginable. However, there will always be isolated cases.
And so a good feeling remains from this Tour de France. The sporting performances shown were thrilling, there was hardly a day on which the best entertainment was not offered. Of course, despite all the enthusiasm, the drivers shouldn’t be forgotten either, so many found the race, which was one-sidedly aimed at the greatest possible spectacle, not always in the interests of the protagonists.
This tour was characterized by the grandiose duel between overall winner Vingegaard and his predecessor Tadej Pogacar, a duel that calls for a repetition next year and then possibly even becomes a triel when the Colombian Egan Bernal is hopefully in the best of health again.
But it wasn’t just the fight at the top that captivated the crowds. There was also a Wout van Aert who proved to be the most complete rider of this tour, claiming victories on the flat, time trials and almost even in the high mountains.
And the Germans? Had Simon Geschke, who almost did something historic and won the mountain jersey. The Bora-hansgrohe team placed fifth in the overall standings with Alexander Wlassow and had one of the most aggressive professionals in the whole peloton in Lennard Kämna.
Maximilian Schachmann also made it to Paris. Even before the start, the Berliner asked a question that obviously concerns many German drivers: “Why are so many people so skeptical about our sport these days?”
The answer lies in the past, but at some point it should be allowed to rest. Today’s drivers deserve that because – and to put it in Schachmann’s words: “Of course our performance is extreme. But we don’t do anything different every day.” And that was really big sport in the past three weeks.