Eleven North Americans started in Copenhagen to open a Tour de France that delivered an historic stage victory for Canada, a yellow jersey for Sepp Kuss’s captain, attacks aplenty, and confirmation that a new generation is taking hold among U.S. riders.
Seven U.S. riders and four Canadians lined up July 1, but three didn’t make it to Paris. Tour rookie Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM) crashed out in stage 8, while Michael Woods and Guillaume Boivin (Israel Premier Tech) did not start Sunday’s final stage, leaving with COVID-19 and illness, respectively.
The Tour can be cruel, but it also delivers tremendous highs. Hugo Houle won Canada’s first stage since Steve Bauer’s victory in 1988, who was driving in the Israel Premier Tech team car behind the attacking Houle.
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Neilson Powless came within four seconds of snatching the yellow jersey, and later fought to 13th, the best U.S. GC since Kuss was 15th in 2020, and Andrew Talansky was 11th in 2015.
There were no stage victories for U.S. riders, but relentless attacking from Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Powless, and Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) saw a flurry of top-10s. Brandon McNulty almost blew the Tour wide open in the Pyrénées as UAE Team Emirates tried but could not shake Jonas Vingegaard.
Seven U.S. starters was the most since 2014 with nine, and if this Tour is any indication, North American fans will have plenty to cheer about for the next several years.
Here’s how the North Americans performed across three weeks:
Guillaume Boivin (Israel-Premier Tech) — DNS stage 21
The 33-year-old was a late-hour replacement rider for Daryl Impey, who was left off the team with a COVID scare. The irony was that Boivin did not start the final stage Sunday in Paris due to his own illness.
Back for his second Tour, Boivin played key support to help the team win its first Tour stage across the cobbles with Simon Clarke on stage 5. The team won another stage in the Pyrénées with compatriot Hugo Houle in what was a wildly successful Tour for the Israeli-Canadian-backed team. Boivin hit 17th in stage 13 to St. Etienne.
Joe Dombrowski (Astana-Qazaqstan) — 90th overall
The 31-year-old climber from Virginia finally made his Tour debut after more than a decade in the WorldTour. Already a winner in the Giro d’Italia, Dombrowski was hoping to have the climbing legs to chase a stage victory in the Alps and Pyrénées. He rode into the winning break in stage 9 to Châtel high in the French Alps, but did not have the legs to contest for the stage win.
Dombrowski fought in vain a few more times to try to ride into breakaways in the highly contested mountain stages. A late-Tour revival from team captain Alexey Lutsenko, who finished ninth in Paris, saw him on helper duties in the closing stages across the Pyrénées.
Antoine Duchesne (Groupama-FDJ) — 62nd overall
Back for his second Tour, Duchesne is the only Canadian in the WorldTour not racing on Israel Premier Tech. The 30-year-old was one of those riders who often do all the work in the first half of stages. He helped Groupama-FDJ place David Gaudu into fourth overall in Paris, the first top-5 by a French rider since Julian Alaphilippe was fifth in 2019.
Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech) — stage win, 24th overall
The journeyman Quebecois made history after winning Canada’s first Tour stage win since Steve Bauer in 1988. Houle had already made his mark a few days earlier when he rode to third out of the winning break to St. Etienne, one of three successful breakaway attempts for the 31-year-old.
The stars aligned on the stage to Foix, and Houle attacked over the top of the day’s final climb out of the winning break that featured compatriot and teammate Michael Woods. Houle used his time trial skills to win alone and pointed his arms to the heavens to pay tribute to his brother Pierrik, who was killed after being struck by a vehicle 10 years ago.
The victory was Houle’s first as professional in Europe and his exploits were widely celebrated in Canada.
Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) — 21st overall
The Tour rookie lit up the race from start to finish, and pumped new energy into an otherwise moribund Movistar Team that saw its GC captain Enric Mas leave the race with COVID-19.
The 23-year-old rode into rode into three winning breakaways, and hit fourth place twice and fifth once. There were plenty of other days when Jorgenson was on the move, and he played a key role in pulling Mas back to the front group on the key stage across the cobblestones in the Tour’s first week.
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— Movistar Team (@Movistar_Team) July 23, 2022
Jorgenson’s first top-5 came in stage 10 to Megève when he could not quite counter the late acceleration from stage-winner Magnus Cort. He was back at it three days later on the road to St. Etienne, and he said he misread the race, and followed the wrong wheel instead of chasing down stage-winner Mads Pedersen when he jumped.
Jorgenson looked to have at least a podium spot within his grasp in a thrilling stage over the Pyrénées into Foix, but he slid out on a sweeper left-hander while trying to chase down eventual winner Hugo Houle. Jorgenson was able to remount the bike and hit fourth, and finished the Tour with his left arm and knee wrapped in bandages.
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) — 18th overall
Back for his third Tour, the “Colorado Kid” reconfirmed his climbing chops by providing key support for Tour winner Jonas Vingegaard. Though he wasn’t quite as consistent as he was in his spectacular Tour debut in 2020, Kuss yet again was there when he needed to be in the key moments.
Kuss stepped up in the Pyrénées, and helped Vingegaard keep arch-rival Tadej Pogačar at bay, riding spectacularly in the final mountain stage to Hautacam to set up Vingegaard for his second stage win that all but sealed the yellow jersey.
Jumbo-Visma delivered the perfect tactic to defang Pogačar in the Alps, and Kuss was right there in many of the key moments to give Vingegaard support on the highest climbs. Kuss was eighth at Hautacam and ninth at Alpe d’Huez, both times sacrificing his own chances to help pace Vingegaard.
Kuss arrived in Paris in 18th for his second top-20 in the Tour, always riding in a support role. Kuss is expected to race the Vuelta a España next month, where he was eighth overall in his first top-10 in a grand tour.
Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) — 20th overall
The Arizona all-rounder emerged as one of Pogačar’s most valued allies after his UAE Team Emirates squad was depleted by COVID and injury. McNulty, back for his second Tour with UAE, admitted he didn’t feel his best in the first half of the Tour, but found his legs just when Pogačar needed him,
McNulty’s shining moment came in stage 17 to the first-category summit finale to Peyragudes high in the French Pyrénées. McNulty did two monster pulls on back-to-back first-category climbs, and drilled it all the way to the summit. Pogačar couldn’t shake Vingegaard, but he won his third stage for the third Tour in a row, a consolation of sorts for the Slovenian who would finish second in Paris.
McNulty finished third for his Tour-best result so far, and earned the day’s most combative rider’s prize.
Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) — 13th overall
Back for his third Tour start, Powless rode his best Tour yet, but it came within seconds of being even better.
Powless hit fourth in stage 5 across the notorious cobblestones in northern France to climb into second place, and the next day, came within four seconds of taking the yellow jersey. Pogačar’s victory that day denied him the chance of becoming the first U.S. rider since Greg LeMond to wear the prized tunic (subsequent U.S. yellow jersey performances from Lance Armstrong, David Zabriskie, George Hincapie, and Floyd Landis have all officially been removed from the record books).
Powless kept attacking, and rode into the winning move in the Alps to finish fourth again at Alpe d’Huez. He dug deep to fight for the GC all the way to Paris, finishing a career-best 13th overall, the best U.S. result since Kuss was 15th in 2020 and Andrew Talansky was 11th in 2015.
Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM) — DNF stage 8
Vermaerke carried a standout Critérium du Dauphiné into his first grand tour start at the Tour. The opening week saw him race in support of the team’s goals before a crash left him with a broken clavicle in stage 8.
The good news came later during the Tour when the team confirmed a contract extension through 2025. At 21, there will be more Tours for the exciting all-rounder.
Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) — 67th overall
At 20, Simmons was the youngest among the North American contingent this year, but he raced as if he knew his way around France. With the team racing without a GC threat, Simmons took full advantage of the freedom that came with that. The Colorado racer rode into five breakaways across the Tour, hitting a Tour-best with 11th at Megève on stage 10.
A few days later, he provided key support in helping teammate Mads Pedersen pace over some late climbs as the Dane later kicked to the team’s lone stage win out of the breakaway. Simmons was on the march again on stage 19 when a bunch sprint seemed all but guaranteed, earning him a trip to the podium as the day’s most aggressive rider.
Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) — DNS stage 21
Similar to his teammate Boivin, the Tour delivered a cruel punch Sunday when Woods tested positive for COVID-19, and he did not start the final stage.
Back for his third Tour, Woods rode into three breakaways in the second half the race. His best moment came when he hit third to tie his career-best third in stage 16 into Foix. Teammate Houle had attacked over the top of the day’s final climb with the idea of setting up Woods for the win, but Woods celebrated the historic victory as if it was his own when Houle hung on to win.