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Magnus Cort was one of the star performers at this 2022 Tour de France.
The EF Education-EasyPost rider wowed the fans in his native Denmark with his daily attacks and spent a week in the polka dot jersey. He added a stage victory to his Tour de France haul before he, unfortunately, had to leave the race with COVID-19.
In this extract for “The Road Book 2022,” Cort relives his summer of success in Demark and France. The Road Book, which debuted in 2018, is an annual in-depth look back at the cycling season with data from the men’s and women’s WorldTour races, essays, and more.
The Road Book 2022 is available to buy online.
I don’t have any particular memory of the Tour de France but I can remember it as a part of the summer holidays, watching it on the TV and it was always the battle between Armstrong and Ulrich. I was only three years old when Bjarne Riis won, but I heard about it and was aware of the aftermath a few years later. I had a Telekom jersey as a really small kid. I had it for a long time because you couldn’t get them that small, so I could wear it for years.
I don’t remember when I heard about the grand départ in Copenhagen, but it was quite some time ago. I don’t really know what I expected but I knew it would be big, a lot of people watching on the roads and on TV, many people driving down and watching stages. I was expecting people on the roads in Copenhagen, but it was wilder than what I expected — especially on the time trial and the noise they made the whole way around.
It wasn’t the plan from the beginning that I should go to the Giro before the Tour, but I broke my collarbone and then it was a possibility to do the Giro and the Tour. If I hadn’t done the double the year before and done really well in the Vuelta, I don’t think the team would have liked me to do it, and also I would have liked to focus on the Tour, but with my experience from the year before I felt doing the Giro could be a really good way into the Tour, so it probably wasn’t a bad thing.
I think the Tour de France is so big now that you always want to be there, and I always want to be at my best. It’s not like I could specifically try and do any more than I had done in previous years but as we got closer, I wanted to do something during the stages in Denmark. There were some sprints but they were going to be proper bunch sprints and it wouldn’t be easy, but then Charly [Wegelius] had a think, and we saw how it went in the time trial, and after that he said I had the green light to go if I wanted to. So I was really happy to be allowed to do it.
I had pretty much my whole family there for the presentation and my mum and dad were there for the stages in Denmark. On the first road stage they were standing just after the last hill sprint I won. I knew they would be somewhere but I wasn’t looking for them because there were so many people on the road, but when I crossed the KOM line there and I celebrated, it was funny because I saw them right afterwards. It was nice to have that moment with them also.
I think I had a really good day out there. I knew after taking the first two sprints that the jersey was secure for that day, and then I was thinking about what I could do on the last sprint. The fans were giving a lot, and I was very motivated to win the mountains jersey for the day, so I thought why not give something back? It wasn’t a break that we were trying to go to the finish line, or expecting to, so in a way everything went perfect for me and I was happy. It was like a victory for me.
Being in a break on your own is quite different. On stage 3, even though I was in Denmark and there were a lot of spectators and I knew I had a mission being out there, it was still a long day and a little bit boring. No, just kidding, I was happy. Looking back at it now, I enjoyed it. I knew I wanted to go out in the break again and I attacked straight from the gun. I had nobody with me and actually I was pretty happy to go out alone. I hadn’t expected it.
I hoped that it would be an easy breakaway to get into, but I was also prepared for the worst that there could be fighting. The first goal of the day was to get into the break, and then when you’re alone it’s pretty easy and calm. It was pretty insane getting to the first town, the yelling from the crowds, all by myself, with such a big crowd. That was quite special. Some memories stand out – like the first two mountain sprints, which were the two most important ones. They were really intense, proper hard sprints and efforts. They were three days I will remember. The time trial, and that day riding solo.
It was my plan to try and win stage 10. I thought maybe the finish would be too hard for me, but it wasn’t impossible, it wasn’t super-steep on that final climb. It was a long fight to get in the break. You’re already tired, and once you get in the break you’re like: ‘OK, the day starts now,’ but I think it was the same for everybody. When there are multiple hills it’s difficult to say when a break will go, but it definitely took longer than I was thinking that day. It was quite clear for most of the day that the break would go to the end. You kind of feel it in the bunch when it’s one of those classic breakaway stages. Almost every team had someone in it, and I remember the time gap was just growing slowly for most of the day. I didn’t expect them to spend any energy to bring it back.
It was quite hard because we’d just started racing before we reached the protesters. We went straight through but then the race organisers stopped us on the other side of the protesters because they couldn’t get their cars through so everything had to be reorganised before we started again. Then I had a flat tyre that I hadn’t noticed standing still but when we started again I was sitting on a flat rear wheel and I didn’t have a car behind me, so there was a moment of panic there to get them to wait on the side of the road so I could get a new wheel.
The first part was pretty simple, with Bettiol in front — I was just sitting on, following the wheels — then we caught him and he did a couple of attacks before he was done and then I was on my own. I thought the win was out of my hands — Sanchez had a good attack and rode away, and a couple of other guys did, but I was on my limits. I had to give up a bit on the acceleration and got dropped a couple of times, but then suddenly everything was all back together as we turned onto the finish straight on the airfield.
I didn’t think too deeply about it in the last few kilometres because I thought the win was gone, but then it was a little bit downhill and a little bit flat coming in and I was in the wheel so, even though I’d been going all out, the guys I was catching were waiting a little bit and looking at each other. I knew a finish like that was good for me with a few hundred metres to go. I remember coming in on the left-hander, looking straight up at where the VIPs sit and thinking: ‘Now I need to dig deep.’ I didn’t know when I was going to get a chance like that again.
I think the first victory in the Tour is always different, but this one is still huge for my career. It’s still massive.
It was a big disappointment to leave the race. It’s the first time I haven’t finished a Grand Tour. I would have liked to continue if I was able, but that’s just how it is. I won’t win anything by losing my temper and throwing chairs, so I just stayed pretty calm and went home and was sad about it. It’s just part of the game.