King of the mountains. Champion of the Champs-Elysées.
Jonas Vingaard went from talented rookie to dominating leader in his own right over three weeks of epic racing to claim his first Tour de France title on Sunday.
Denmark’s former fish factory worker dethroned reigning champion Tadej Pogacar with a memorable performance in the mountains in cycling’s biggest race.
Vingeaard, 25, who finished second to Pogacar in his first Tour last year, excelled in the scorching heat that enveloped France this month and emerged victorious in a thrilling duel with Pogacar, the great initial favourite. of the race.
Vingeard competed last year as a replacement for Tom Dumoulin in the Jumbo-Visma team. It was a revelation for Vingaard as he realized he could challenge for the overall title after dropping Pogacar on the famous Mont Ventoux climb, but his Slovenian rival was at the top of his game and largely untouchable.
A year later, Vingaard climbed to the top step of the podium after building his triumph with two phenomenal races in the Alps and Pyrenees.
Three weeks ago in Copenhagen, the Jumbo-Visma team started the race with two leaders – Vingaard and Spain’s three-time Vuelta winner Primoz Roglic. But Roglic’s challenge took a hit when he suffered a dislocated shoulder and lost more than two minutes to Pogacar on the race’s cobbled fifth stage, leaving Vingaard a lone leader.
Vingeard more than exceeded expectations from that point on.
He showed his intentions in the first big mountain stage at the Col du Granon to seize the yellow jersey of leader of the race from Pogacar, who fell more than two minutes late that day. After grabbing the famous tunic on a stage that included three monster alpine climbs, Vingaard kept it until the end.
With the help of teammates including the versatile Wout Van Aert, Vingaard responded to the relentless attacks launched by Pogacar day after day. His supremacy in the mountains was such that in addition to his victory in the general classification, Vingaard also won the jersey of king of the mountains, not bad for a rider from a country whose highest point is barely 170 meters altitude.
Vingegaard and Pogacar were clearly in a class of their own this year as their closest rival, 2018 Tour champion Geraint Thomas, was reduced to a mere spectator in the leaders fight. Thomas finished in third place.
Vingegaard delivered his decisive blow in the Pyrenees, signing a second stage victory in the ski resort of Hautacam. There the Dane responded to a series of attacks from Pogacar and eventually dropped the Slovenian on the final big mountain stage of this year’s race to increase his overall lead to over three minutes.
Pogacar cracked about four kilometers (2 1/2 miles) from the finish on the final climb, with his hopes of winning a third consecutive title all but over. He fought until the very end, but Vingegaard was again the strongest in Saturday’s individual time trial to effectively secure the title.
“The battle between me and Jonas for the yellow jersey was very special,” said Pogacar. “I think we have two or three very interesting years ahead of us. Jonas has stepped up his game this year.
The lightweight-framed Vingegaard may not be as naturally gifted as Pogacar, who has shown over the past two years that he is capable of winning Grand Tours and the most prestigious one-day classics.
But Vinegaard surely learns quickly.
Vingegaard didn’t experience his first ascent until he was 16 years old. His climbing skills, however, will not remain unnoticed for long.
After setting a record time on the climb of the Coll de Rates during a training camp in Spain with his former team ColoQuick, he joined Jumbo-Visma in 2019 and quickly improved. In his first Tour last year he showed leadership qualities after Roglic retired from the race, and followed that up with a cold-blooded run to victory this summer.
The growing rivalry between Pogacar and Vingaard brought new racing scenarios that thrilled fans.
Both men were equipped with strong teams capable of controlling the running in the mountains, an essential element that was the hallmark of the powerful Ineos teams over the past decade. But on many occasions, Pogacar and Vingaard have found themselves relying on themselves at high altitude, fighting on equal terms.
Pogacar also brought a sense of old-school romance with his long-range attacks. At 23, the UAE-Emirates team is promised a bright future.
Vingaard became the first Dane to win the Tour since Bjarne Riis achieved the feat in 1996 at a time when doping was rampant in cycling.
After retiring from cycling, Riis admitted in 2007 to using blood booster EPO from 1993 to 1998, including when he won the Tour.
When asked if his team should be trusted, Vingaard said he and his teammates “are totally clean, every one of us”.
“None of us are taking anything illegal,” he added. “I think the reason we’re so good is the preparation we’re doing. We’re taking high camps to the next level.
Jasper Philipsen won Sunday’s final stage – a mostly processional ride around Paris to the Champs-Elysées – in a sprint ahead of Dylan Groenewegen and Alexander Kristoff.
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