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Tour winner Jonas Vingegaard: Normalo with extraordinary powers

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Tour winner Jonas Vingegaard: Normalo with extraordinary powers

Tourreporter

Status: 07/23/2023 8:11 p.m

Jonas Vingegaard wins the Tour de France for the second time. The Dane is an introvert who strictly sticks to his plans. That puts him doing better than his free-spirited rival Tadej Pogacar on the Tour. But Vingegaard’s dominance also inspires skepticism.

It’s done: Jonas Vingegaard celebrated his second victory in the Tour de France in Paris wearing the yellow jersey. By cycling standards, the Dane is a superstar, the figurehead of his sport. But who is this slight, pale man with the deep lines around his mouth? What drives him, what occupies him, what does he have to say to people?

A family man, introverted and shy

Many have tried very hard in the past three weeks to find answers to these questions. They’ve been trying to find out more about Jonas Vingegaard, 26, from Hillerslev in Denmark, ever since it became clear he was going to win this Tour de France by a wide margin. But even the charming Sebastian Piquet, who conducts the interviews behind the podium for the tour organizer ASO, didn’t really get any further.

Vingegaard described himself as a family man, introverted and a bit shy. He didn’t want to reveal much more. His partner Trine Marie Hansen and their daughter Frida were always the first people he contacted after the stages. And when they weren’t there, you’d see him on the phone before he even had his yellow jersey put on on the podium.

It is also known that Vingegaard and his wife occasionally enjoy a glass of white wine. And in a Sportschau interview before the tour, he said that he likes the music of the Danish pop band “The Minds of 99” and that he likes junk food. But of course he rarely allows himself that. For example after the tour victory: He is looking forward to eating a duro first at home, he said on Saturday at the obligatory press conference of the designated tour winner. Otherwise, of course, he sticks to the strict diet plans of a professional cyclist.

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The plans give him security

Anyway, the plans. Vingegaard has talked about them more often than about himself in the past three weeks in France. The plans give him security. “If I stick to that, I know I’ll be at my best,” said Vingegaard. And since the winter they have been working out a strategy for the tour with his team Jumbo-Visma, he said. “We had a plan every day and we carried it out,” said Vingegaard. “Not everyone understood our plans, but we did. And that paid off in the end.”

When everyone still believed that there would be a duel of seconds between him and Tadej Pogacar until the end, Vingegaard always emphasized that in the end minutes would decide the tour. Then came that time trial in the Alps where he was a class better than Pogacar and two classes better than the rest of the field. A day later, Pogacar radioed at the Col de la Loze: “I’m done, I’m dead.” And finally lost the tour. Vingegaard’s overall lead in Paris is 7’29 minutes.

A dominance that arouses doubts

If this scenario was part of the plan at Jumbo-Visma, then they will also have reckoned with the doubts that the dominance in the time trial in particular caused. In cycling, something like this always sounds the alarm. Because such dominance awakens unpleasant memories of times when super dopers like Lance Armstrong dominated the tour with similar clarity.

“I don’t take anything,” Vingegaard has emphasized several times in the past few days, although he can understand the skepticism given all the fraud in the history of cycling. Here, too, the plans, the strict training requirements, the scientific nature of the industry, the sophisticated diets and the ever-improving material serve as an explanation for his achievements. “I’m still developing and getting better, but it’s not like I’m 20 percent stronger than last year,” said Vingegaard.

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At least in his home country of Denmark, where Bjarne Riis, a tour winner, has fallen off his pedestal because of doping, people are willing to accept this explanation. “He’s a physical phenomenon and very meticulous, very systematic and well-prepared in everything he does,” says Danish TV commentator Dennis Ritter. “And as long as there’s nothing concrete that makes him suspicious, I don’t think there’s any doubt about him.”

Counter-proposal to Tadej Pogacar

Vingegaard still lives in a small town in Denmark. It’s nice and quiet there: “Exactly how I like it.” A normal guy with extraordinary powers who was still packing fish in a fish factory a few years ago. Before his ascent to the top of cycling began, where he was initially considered a bundle of nerves in the peloton. “He’s a big star, but he doesn’t follow the media hype and doesn’t appear on every talk show. He keeps to himself,” says Ritter. “And a lot of people in Denmark are like that and like that.”

Vingegaard is the alternative to his rival Tadej Pogacar, who lives in Monaco, entertains the audience on social media and also acts more spontaneously on the bike. However, it is precisely this contrast that makes the duel between Vingegaard and Pogacar so appealing. The Tour de France has always thrived on such rivalries: Anquetil versus Poulidour, Hinault versus Fignon, Armstrong versus Ullrich. And the duelists were always antipodes. “These rivalries are good for cycling,” says Vingegaard. “It was an incredible fight between Tadej and me.”

Together, Vingegaard and Pogacar break all the speed records on the climbs of the Tour, emphasizing their respect for one another at every opportunity. “He’s a really nice guy and one of the best climbers in the world,” Pogacar said of Vinegaard.

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Vingegaard puts the sole focus on the tour

The Dane, on the other hand, knows that Pogacar is the more versatile driver who can also win at the spring classics. This is another reason why he considers him “the best driver in the world“. He himself, on the other hand, has dedicated himself entirely to the Tour de France and, unlike in 2021, has not taken part in the Ardennes classics this year. “Of course I also have other goals,” says Vingegaard, “but the Tour de France is the most important cycling race in the world, it’s something special.”

Pogacar, who traveled to Paris in the yellow jersey in 2020 and 2021, will have to come up with something if he wants to unseat Vingegaard next year. But the Slovenian is still reluctant to fully commit to the Tour. The other races appeal to him too much for that. But Pogacar also knows that Vingegaard is ahead of him at the moment. “He was phenomenal this year. At the moment he’s the best on the tour,” he said, knowing full well that the duel will probably be repeated next year. “I think we both have a good future. It sounds like we are a couple, but we will fight more battles in the future.”

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