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Tour de France

Tour de Hoody: Col du Granon delivers another passing-of-the-torch moment at Tour de France

Fireworks on the legendary climb confirm that a new generation has forever buried the tactics of controlled racing.

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Wednesday’s fireworks turned the Tour de France upside in a delicious, old-school kind of way.

There were chess-like tactics, long-range attacks, shattered ambitions, and realized dreams, all packed into four delicious hours of racing. This is bike racing the way everyone wants to see it.

Long gone are the days of Team Sky/Fortress Froome, which sucked all the life out of bike racing for nearly a decade.

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Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar are modern racers with an historic touch, and they put on a dazzling show Wednesday that will go down as one of the most captivating stages in recent Tour history.

This new generation is not afraid to race to win. They’re willing to risk all for a larger prize. And cycling is better off for it.

That Wednesday’s unexpected turn of fortunes happened on the Col du Granon makes the storyline even sweeter.

It was on this same mountain back in 1986 that French badass Bernard Hinault finally cracked and passed the yellow jersey torch to heir apparent and modern face Greg LeMond.

The American went on to become the first non-European to win the Tour, and Hinault never wore yellow again.

Flash forward nearly 40 years, and you have to wonder why ASO waited so long to bring the Tour back to the climb just for the second time in race history.

It’s a grinder of road, located between some of the most iconic climbs in the Alps, meaning the approach will take the peloton over the Galibier or the Izoard, depending on the direction, and set up the final with everyone’s legs bien cuit.

Pogačar was certainly cooked Wednesday, and he cracked in both a surprising and spectacular fashion not seen like that since Simon Yates buckled during the 2018 Giro d’Italia to unrelenting pressure from Chris Froome.

Some compared it to the epic collapses of Miguel Indurain or Jan Ullrich in other Tours, but hold that thought.

The big difference is that Pogačar’s Tour is far from over. At least not yet.

And just like the Tour’s of the LeMond era, riders who blow up one day can come back and recover the next.

It’s hard to imagine that Pogačar is going to throw in the towel. Far from it. One can imagine he is already stuffing his face with recovery foods at the team hotel on Wednesday to plot his revenge.

There is still plenty of vertical left in this Tour. In fact, Wednesday was only the first major mountain stage of this race. There are four more mountain stages, another uphill punchy finale, and the penultimate day time trial at 40km. This Tour is very far from decided.

And what lies on tap tomorrow? None other than Alpe d’Huez.

Pogačar has been compared to both Eddy Merckx and Lance Armstrong, but he reminds some even more of LeMond.

With his boyish good lucks and happy-go-lucky attitude, Pogačar is a natural-born killer on two wheels from the same ilk as LeMond. He is the child prodigy who is adept at winning in all and over any terrain, who defies some of cycling’s long-worn traditions.

And it was back in 1986, a day after the Col du Granon, that Hinault and LeMond finished atop the 21 switchbacks of Alpe d’Huez to make the official passing of the torch.

LeMond’s victory opened the Tour to the globe. With the LeMond generation came a flood of Irish, Australian, Colombian, Canadian, and British riders who rewrote the cycling history books.

Jumbo-Visma will have similar visions of grandeur dancing through their collective minds tomorrow, with the dream scenario of Vingegaard and Primož Roglič finishing arm-in-arm just like LeMond and Hinault did two generations ago.

Wednesday’s stage up Col du Granon was the crowning moment of a new generation that’s slowly been taking over the peloton the past few years.

The likes of Thomas and other proud warriors like Nairo Quintana might still be hanging around on pure class, but it’s the Pogačars and Vingegaards, both in their early to mid-20s, who set the tone of the bunch.

Some of these young riders have only raced the Tour during a world pandemic. Generation COVID, and they’re seeing for the first time the delirium and chaos that is racing the Tour with throngs lining the cols.

Jumbo-Visma played near-perfect tactics. (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

The way today’s younger riders race is a throwback to the Hinault and LeMond years, but with a modern twist.

Just like the champions of the past, they race to win almost every day they line up. Yet they do not pack the personal animosity and vendettas that once ruled the peloton.

They might be enemies on the road, but they’re friends in the paddock and follow each other on social media.

Their pure talent coupled with modern technology is allowing today’s riders to finally break free from the shackles and suffocating style of the controlling style of racing that had choked off cycling dating back to the 1990s and carrying through to Armstrong’s “Blue Train” and into Sky’s Fortress Froome.

Jumbo-Visma delivered a tactical masterpiece, and blew a hole right into Pogačar’s depleted defenses.

The pieces were positioned in the opening hour, and the attacks today started before the Galibier, and carried over onto the final enthralling denouement on Col du Granon.

Pogačar wasn’t sitting behind a wall of familiar jerseys at any moment in this Tour. Even before COVID-19 shrunk UAE’s ranks, Pogačar was attacking every day to win.

And now that he’s on the back foot, he could be even more dangerous.

Jumbo-Visma will need to keep attacking if it hopes to chaperone Vingegaard to Paris. Pogačar and the other rivals are not beaten into submission, at least not yet.

The race is on. The Badger would be proud.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.