As he crossed the finish line of Saturday’s last stage of the Tour de France, Jonas Vingegaard put a cupped palm over his lips as if he was trying to hold back a gasp. He had accomplished what he had set out to do, and the magnitude of his achievement was beginning to dawn on him.
Vingegaard, a 25-year-old Danish rider, had won the Tour de France in his second race and just three years after becoming a professional cyclist.
On Sunday, the race’s customary celebration ride into Paris made his triumph official. It was too late for the Tour de France to be called off, and so when Dane Thomas Vingegaard finished second in the time trial on Saturday to Belgian Wout van Aert of Jumbo-Visma, his performance on that 25-mile course was enough to give him such a large lead in the overall standings that the final stage brought almost no drama.
At Paris, Vingegaard stayed out of harm’s way and crossed the finish line with his colleagues safely in the back of the pack. He completed the race in 79 hours, 33 minutes, and 20 seconds.
“We developed a strategy and we followed it 100 percent,” he remarked on the platform after the meeting ended. Everyone on the squad and behind the team should be thanked.” What a remarkable voyage it’s been for us, and we’ve now completed it.
A lengthy, sweaty embrace awaited Vingegaard and his spouse and small daughter in the area beyond the finish line after approximately three weeks of the Tour.
He wanted to win for them as he pedalled up and down the seemingly never-ending slopes and brutal mountains, as well as over the flat highways through flower fields and farms. In spite of the oppressive heat, which sometimes reached temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, he stated he was prepared for it all because he had mentally prepared himself for it.
It was a hard Tour that Vingegaard, a fisherman from a tiny hamlet in northern Denmark, eventually triumphed at the conclusion of.
Slovenian rider Tadej Pogacar finished second overall, 2:43 behind Vingegaard, after battling for the lead until the closing days of the race, when Vingegaard took the overall lead. The 2018 Tour de France champion, Geraint Thomas of Great Britain, finished third, 7:22 off the lead. Vingegaard was 13 minutes ahead of the rest of the pack.
Even though he conceded defeat, Pogacar, 23, said Saturday: “I believe the struggle between myself and Jonas was truly something spectacular. In the penultimate lap of Sunday’s race, his late surge into the lead presented the sole glimmer of a surprise, but he was quickly hauled back in.
There will be “an intriguing couple of years ahead for us,” Pogacar said of his competition with Vingegaard. As a result, “he’s taken charge of things from the start, and he’s shown himself to be a good rider,” he said.
Due to last year’s second-place performance, Pogacar was probably expecting Vingegaard to be his strongest competitor going into this Tour.
Vingegaard stepped up to the plate in 2021 after Jumbo-best Visma’s rider, Primoz Roglic, was forced to withdraw from the Tour following a collision. His performance was magnificent, and it was completely unexpected as well. He left Pogacar in the dust on Mont Ventoux to set a new record time for the renowned climb.
On two wheels and on fast forward, Vingegaard’s whole career has been nothing short of a fairy tale.
As part of his job in Denmark, he gutted, cleaned and put fish into ice cases six months before joining Jumbo-Visma in 2019. A fish auction had been his previous job before that. For him, the early-morning starts and the gruelling physical work helped him rise to the top of the cycling world, despite the bitter cold.
His Jumbo-Visma crew, particularly van Aert, was always there for him.
The green jersey is given to the rider who earns the most points for stage finishes and mid-race sprints. Van Aert had a great run, spending every day of the Tour save the first in the green jersey. Vingegaard support may be what he has accomplished in the last three weeks.
The hard Hautacam climb, which proved to be the final stage in the overall race, was a crucial moment for Van Aert’s relationship with Vingegaard. At 6-foot-3, he defied the conventional wisdom that riders with smaller frames, such as Vingegaard and Pogacar, are inherently better climbers. He rode aggressively in a breakaway and set the pace.