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Tour de France

Jonas Vingegaard hails Tour de France rival Tadej Pogačar ‘one of the greatest riders of all time’

Vingegaard parries Pogačar's attacks on the Alpe in day one of daunting nine-stage mission to defend yellow jersey.

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ALPE D’HUEZ, France (VN) – Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar exchanged a grimacing smile during a brief pause in hostilities on the Alpe d’Huez on Thursdy.

It was a grim admiration of their ability to hurt one another.

“It was down to respecting each other. I can only speak for myself, but I have a lot of respect for Tadej, And I think the other way around,” Vingegaard explained after he successfully defended his yellow jersey for the first time Thursday.

“He can do everything. He’s one of the greatest riders of all time already, I would say. I have a lot of respect for him and I think it comes down to that.”

Vingegaard and his yellow jersey rival lit up the final bends of the Alpe on stage 12 of the Tour de France in scenes first seen on the Mont Ventoux last summer.

The dynamite Dane dropped Pogačar on the flanks of the Ventoux in the UAE Emirates captain’s one flash of weakness in his storming ride to a second Tour title.

It proved a flash of things to come for the Jumbo-Visma ace.

Twelve months later, Vingegaard is back, and this time, he’s the one in yellow.

“I think mentally I’ve grown a lot [since the 2021 Tour],” Vingegaard told the press group. “We saw last year that I already had the level, and then this year I’ve got a lot more confidence, and I believe in myself. I’ve grown mentally.”

Also read: Vingegaard isn’t waiting to finish second to Pogačar

Vingegaard will need every inch of mental resilience in the nine stages to come. Pogačar came back swinging on the climb up the Alpe’s 21 bends in a sign he’s not going out laying down after his disaster day in the Alps on Wednesday

“He was strong today, and luckily I was able to follow him. I’m happy with that, of course,” Vingegaard said. “In the end I was able to follow [Pogačar] and didn’t lose any time. So yeah, today was a good day.”

Vingegaard has the daunting task of defending yellow for some time before the Tour reaches Paris.

Pogačar cut a confident cloth when wearing the maillot jaune and his Danish rival has a whole new burden of conferences, tests and protocol to follow.

“I’m just going to take it day by day. So now we just have to focus on tomorrow,” Vingegaard said. “We’ll just have to see day by day how I feel and then we’ll make a plan from there.”

If the final three kilometers of the Alpe showed anything, it’s that Vingegaard and Pogačar’s exchanged smile was only on the surface Thursday.

Expect a spectacle in the back-half of this Tour de France.

“Now I have this beautiful jersey I’ll do everything I can every day to try to hang on to it,” Vingegaard vowed.