Sports

Jonas Vingegaard Set to Win Tour de France on Second Try

PARIS — Head down and legs churning, Jonas Vingegaard crossed the end line of the penultimate stage of the Tour de France on Saturday and cupped his hand over his mouth, as if to stifle a pant. He had performed what he had come to do, and his astonishing accomplishment was sinking in.

In solely his second Tour de France, and solely three years after changing into an expert bicycle owner, Vingegaard, a 25-year-old Danish rider, had cemented a victory in biking’s most prestigious race.

Vingegaard completed second in Saturday’s time trial to his Jumbo-Visma teammate Wout van Aert, however his effort on the 25-mile course was sufficient to go away him with such a big lead within the total standings — 3 minutes 34 seconds — that nobody will likely be ready to catch him on Sunday, when the race concludes with its conventional celebratory experience into Paris.

“Since final 12 months I at all times believed I might do it,” Vingegaard mentioned, as his eyes started to nicely with tears. “It’s a reduction that I did.”

After 76 hours, 33 minutes and 57 seconds of racing and practically three full weeks of the Tour, Vingegaard discovered his associate and toddler daughter within the space previous the end line and gave them an extended, sweaty hug.

“Having my two women on the end line means much more to me,” he informed a postrace interviewer, pausing briefly to wipe away a couple of tears. “I’m simply so completely satisfied, and proud,” he added.

While Vingegaard had pedaled up and down all of the countless hills and unforgiving mountains, and throughout all of the flat roads previous fields of flowers and farms, he had wished to win for them. During each day of searing warmth that at instances rose above 100 levels, melting pavement and sidelining some riders with warmth exhaustion, he mentioned, he had steeled himself for them.

And, ultimately, Vingegaard, who grew up in a small fishing city in northern Denmark, received what was arguably probably the most grueling Tours in historical past.

Tadej Pogacar, the Slovenian searching for his third straight Tour win, remained in second place total after Stage 20 after preventing with Vingegaard for the lead till the ultimate few levels. Geraint Thomas of Britain, the 2018 Tour winner, was third, 8 minutes 13 seconds again.

“I feel the battle between me and Jonas was actually one thing particular,” mentioned Pogacar, 23. “It’s going to be an attention-grabbing couple of years forward for us. He’s stepped up from final 12 months, he is taken management of issues from the start, and he is confirmed he is a robust rider.”

Going into this Tour, Pogacar almost definitely anticipated Vingegaard to be his best rival after Vingegaard’s inconceivable second-place end final 12 months.

In 2021, Jumbo-Visma’s prime rider, Primoz Roglic, had dropped out of the Tour after a crash and Vingegaard took it upon himself to present what he might do. His efficiency was breathtaking — and surprising. On the daunting Mont Ventoux, he left Pogacar behind to report one of many quickest instances ever for that legendary climb.

Vingegaard’s total profession has been nothing wanting a fairy story performed out on two wheels and on quick ahead.

Six months earlier than becoming a member of Jumbo-Visma in 2019, he was working part-time in a Danish manufacturing facility the place he gutted, cleaned and packed fish into ice-filled containers. Before that, he labored at a fish public sale. He credit these days of waking at 4 am and all that arduous guide labor within the shivering chilly with serving to him get to the place he’s now, on the prime of the biking world.

His Jumbo-Visma workforce, particularly van Aert, who’s from Belgium, was at his aspect all the best way.

Van Aert will end the Tour within the inexperienced jersey, which is awarded to the rider who accumulates probably the most factors for stage finishes and in midrace dash sections. He may even add to his three stage wins on this 12 months’s Tour if he crosses the road first on Sunday.

But maybe van Aert’s greatest achievement over the previous three weeks has been his assist of Vingegaard. Van Aert was there for Vingegaard when Vingegaard wanted him probably the most on the grueling Hautacam climb that turned out to be the deciding stage within the total competitors. He took off on a breakaway and mercilessly dictated a quick tempo, difficult the notion at 6-foot-3 that gentle, smaller riders — like Vingegaard — are naturally the perfect climbers.

Pogacar, who was battling Vingegaard for the general lead, could not sustain. As Vingegaard and van Aert saved climbing, Pogacar pale, wanting like a automobile coasting down a hill in impartial because the Jumbo-Visma teammates charged forward.

The Jumbo-Visma workforce has received six of the Tour’s 20 levels getting into Sunday’s finale, and van Aert was in tears on Saturday as a result of he was so overwhelmed together with his workforce’s effort, and likewise his personal stage win. He mentioned he couldn’t be happier for Vingegaard and that the day was “a dream state of affairs.”

“Jonas was such a robust man, however particularly is such a very good man,” he mentioned.

After Saturday’s stage, although, Vingegaard confronted questions on his fairy-tale profession. One reporter requested him about his fast rise within the sport, and about how he might end twenty second within the 2019 Danish nationwide time trial after which go on to practically win Saturday’s time trial after three weeks of the Tour.

If Vingegaard was acquainted in any respect with Tour historical past, or Danish racing historical past, it was potential that he anticipated the query. The solely different Dane to win the Tour was Bjarne Riis in 1996, and a decade later Riis admitted that he had doped to win the race. Many previous winners, though none just lately, have both been caught doping or have admitted to doing so.

No, Vingegaard mentioned, he didn’t go quick as a result of he had doped. It occurred as a result of he and his workforce improved his aerodynamics by toiling within the wind tunnel and adjusting his physique place and bike.

“We’re completely clear,” he mentioned in his information convention, broadening his denial to embody his total workforce. “Every one in every of us. I can say that to each one in every of you. No one in every of us is taking something unlawful.”

High-altitude coaching camps and a focus to element — in meals, in tools, in preparation — was behind Jumbo-Visma’s rise, he mentioned. “That’s why you will have to belief,” he mentioned.

Vingegaard seems to take sportsmanship severely. On one descent throughout Stage 18, Pogacar crashed on a bit of gravel as he and Vingegaard zoomed down a hill practically aspect by aspect. But as a substitute of making the most of Pogacar’s fall, Vingegaard waited for him down the street, permitting his rival to catch up.

After coming again collectively, Pogacar reached out in an expression of gratitude and the 2 clenched palms in a second that will likely be replayed for years for example of the nice aspect of sports activities.

But solely one in every of them now will climb atop the rostrum in Paris and have fun on the Champs-Élysées. Only one will pose for pictures and household reminiscences that may final a lifetime. And just one will likely be celebrated in his dwelling nation this summer season because the king of biking.

A collection of ceremonies honoring Vingegaard is already scheduled to be held in Copenhagen, the town that hosted the beginning of this 12 months’s Tour — the kickoff to Vingegaard’s experience to victory.

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