The 25-year-old Danish rider is plotting on smooth sailing next month in France to confirm his credentials as a legitimate Tour contender and calibrate his direction toward a return to the Tour podium.
“There was a bit of a surprise, but I started believing in the second week when I dropped Pogačar on the Mont Ventoux,” Vingegaard said. “I do think I have a good chance of winning the Tour. We have to do our best and see what result we get.”
Not to say second place to Tadej Pogačar in 2021 needs any sort of confirmation at all.
Last year, Vingegaard was the only rider who even managed to stay within the same zip code as the Slovenian slayer.
In fact, Vingegaard even did something on Mont Ventoux that no one else has ever done in the Tour — drop Pogačar on a climb.
Flash forward nearly 12 months, and Vingegaard will start his second Tour this week in very different circumstances than he did one year ago.
“Things are on the right way for the Tour,” Vingegaard said this month. “I know that one of us can win the Tour, but many things can happen during the Tour.”
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Last year, almost no one beyond the Jumbo-Visma inner circle or a few keen observers even counted on him for much.
Yet there he was, punching way above his 60kg weight to stun the world, and save Jumbo-Visma’s 2021 Tour.
Primož Roglič crashed out in the first week, and instead of throwing in the towel, the team rallied around Vingegaard.
The slender, blonde, soft-spoken Dane wasn’t expected to do much in his Tour debut, well, at least not nearly as much as he did. Yet he matched Pogačar as best he could, and kept everyone else at bay, and hit the podium with second.
And now he’s back, and his strong showing at the Dauphiné last month with a stage win and second overall has calmed a lot of nerves.
Denmark’s new hope
With success comes pressure.
The Danish media has been hoping and praying for a new Danish Tour star since Bajrne Riis and Michael Rasmussen, two talented but ultimately flawed figures.
With Vingegaard, a nation has a rider who it can believe in.
But Vingegaard has sometimes struggled to meet expectations, at least off the bike. He admitted he often put too much pressure on himself earlier in his career, and struggled with the pressure and sacrifice of being a top-flight pro.
He’s more interested in going home and playing with his baby than he is to make the headlines in the rabid Danish media.
“I just try to focus more on myself,” he said. “I don’t have a big problem from what people expect from me. It’s more about my own expectations of what I know I can do really well. I don’t have really have any problems from expectations from anyone else.”
He prefers to let his legs to do the talking, and lately, they’re chirping up.
“We have to talk about the tactics for the Tour,” he said. “Both of us will be stronger, and the whole team will be super strong together.”
After a bit of an uneven spring, a long training camp with his Jumbo-Visma teammates in Spain’s Sierra Nevada helped turned the corner.
The goal was always the Tour, but some early season results are never bad for morale. They’ve finally came with a flourish at the Dauphiné.
When Roglič attacked in the penultimate stage, Vingegaard marked the wheel of danger man Ben O’Connor, and then came over the top to finish third on the stage. In the next day’s big finale high in the French Alps, it was Vingegaard’s turn, and he and Roglič finished arm-in-arm in what everyone inside the Jumbo-Visma bus hope is a preview of July.
“It would be hard for us to be one-two in the Tour because there are a few more riders, Pogačar, Martínez, Vlasov,” he said. “The competition will be harder, but we will go for at least one of us to try to win the race.”