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Tour de France

Tour de France: Can Jonas Vingegaard be the rider to beat Tadej Pogačar?

Jonas Vingegaard has a rosy future ahead of him. He was the first rider to force cracks in Tadej Pogačar's armor, but can the Dane beat the Slovenian.

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Jonas Vingegaard did what many thought impossible: crack Tadej Pogačar.

As the Tour de France reached the top of Mont Ventoux for the second time in a day, Vingegaard jumped away from the four-rider GC group. Pogačar was the only rider who tried to respond.

Even if it was only a small fissure, and Pogačar caught up on the descent, the Dane forced the yellow jersey and defending champion to sit up on a climb for the first time during this Tour de France.

There may be some hope after all.

Also read: ‘I cracked a little:’ Tadej Pogačar under assault on Mont Ventoux

Vingegaard wasn’t even supposed to be riding the Tour de France this year, he’d been slated for a ride at the Vuelta a España later in the summer.

It was only when Tom Dumoulin decided to take a sabbatical from professional cycling that a door opened up for a Tour de France slot in Jumbo-Visma’s formidable line-up. Vingegaard’s superb performance to finish second overall at Itzulia Basque Country was enough to earn him the place in Jumbo-Visma’s Tour eight.

Even then, he wasn’t coming for anything other than gaining knowledge and helping pre-race favorite Primož Roglič.

“I’m here to learn and to experience what is like in the Tour,” Vingegaard said ahead of the Tour de France. Of course, if we do a good result then it’s a success, but for me, it is important to learn what it is like in the Tour.”

However, just over a week into the Tour de France, Vingegaard is Jumbo-Visma’s best shot at a big GC result and may be the most likely contender to put Pogačar in trouble over the final mountain stages.

Vingegaard was unable to take any time on those around him — except for Ben O’Connor, who was already dropped by the time the Dane attacked — thanks to the long descent into Malaucène. Nevertheless, he showed that he has the power to expose any weaknesses in Pogačar’s armour.

Also read: Jonas Vingegaard and his unexpected climb to the Tour de France

Whether he could do enough to topple the Slovenian or not is an entirely different question and one that the answer is likely to be no. But if anyone is going to grab yellow from Pogačar, Vingegaard is possibly the best placed to do it.

He clearly has the climbing talent to stick with, and beat, Pogačar, and he is by far the strongest time trialist among the nine riders behind the Slovenian.

For Vingegaard, or indeed any of the other GC riders, to overtake Pogačar then he will need much more than a small fissure to form in his defenses. With more than five minutes to make up on yellow, he’ll need a vast crevasse to open up in the coming days.

A tough ask, but that’s what grand tours are for.

Long-term goals

If Vingegaard can pull out a top result it will be great for Jumbo-Visma, which has endured a difficult Tour de France campaign. The team has lost three riders already, including Roglič.

Despite the disappointment of a challenging first half of the Tour, the team is not pushing Vingegaard to deliver. The 24-year-old is in just his third season as a professional and he has not been cut from the same cloth as some other young prodigies, such as his teammate Wout van Aert.

While more and more young riders are coached from an early age to become WorldTour professionals and live almost like a pro long before they sign their first major contract, Vingegaard paved his own way.

Vingegaard took up riding as a 10-year-old after watching the Post Danmark Rundt go by with his father.

“My dad was not a racer, but he was interested in cycling,” Vingegaard told VeloNews last month. “He took me to see the Tour of Denmark, and I started to ride my bike. I was never really good until I got older. When I finished high school, I said if I was not pro by the time I finished my U23 years, I would go to university.”

As an under 23 rider, he used to split his time between early-morning shifts at cleaning recently caught fish for auction and training on his bike. While Vingegaard had plenty of promise at that age, there were a lot of rough edges to knock off.

“We have a long-term plan with Jonas,” Jumbo-Visma sport director Merijn Zeeman told Dutch broadcaster NOS. “We think he can go very far. Now everything is gearing up, but everything is new to him.

“Four years ago, he was still working in the fish auction. He had to work at five in the morning until midday and then he went to train in the afternoon. Now he rides in the white jersey in the Tour de France. This is a wonderful story.”

Vingegaard’s progression was set off course briefly when he crashed and broke his leg, but he has hardly looked back since then.

“My development was mainly in my last year as an under-23, but I believe there is a good reason and that is that the year before I crashed quite hard and broke my leg,” Vingegaard said in a press conference ahead of the Tour de France.

“I was out for most of the season, and I think I would have been doing quite good if I didn’t crash. From that moment, it went quite quickly and I signed for the team. Since then, it has been going one way and that’s up. I’m really happy about my development, and hopefully, I can keep developing in the future. We will see.”

Even if Vingegaard is unable to unseat Pogačar in the final half of the Tour de France, the Danish rider has made a name for himself and solidified himself as a GC rider for the future.