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 puff. 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 sealed his victory in biking’s most prestigious race.
His victory turned official on Sunday, when the race concluded with its conventional celebratory experience into Paris. However the Tour had been successfully over for days, and when Vingegaard completed second in Saturday’s time trial to his Jumbo-Visma teammate, Wout van Aert of Belgium, his effort on the 25-mile course was sufficient to depart him with such a big lead within the total standings — 3 minutes 34 seconds forward of his closest pursuer — that the ultimate stage introduced virtually no drama in any respect.
Vingegaard steered away from hazard on the ultimate laps in Paris, crossing — safely — alongside his teammates nicely behind the peloton. His successful time was 79 hours 33 minutes 20 seconds.
“We made a plan and we adopted it 100%,” he said on the podium afterward. “And due to everybody within the workforce, behind the workforce. It has been actually unbelievable journey for us and now we lastly did it.”
After about three full weeks of the Tour, Vingegaard, as he had on Saturday, instantly sought out his companion and toddler daughter within the space previous the end line after the time trial and gave them an extended, sweaty hug.
Whereas 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. Throughout day-after-day of searing warmth that at occasions rose above 100 levels, melting pavement and sidelining some riders with warmth exhaustion, he mentioned, he had steeled himself for them.
And, in the long run, Vingegaard, who grew up in a small fishing city in northern Denmark, received what was arguably some of the grueling Excursions in historical past.
Tadej Pogacar, the Slovene rider on the lookout for his third straight Tour win, completed second total, 2:43 behind Vingegaard, after combating Vingegaard for the lead till the race’s last days. Geraint Thomas of Britain, the 2018 Tour winner, was third, 7:22 off the tempo. Each different rider was no less than 13 minutes behind Vingegaard.
“I feel the battle between me and Jonas was actually one thing particular,” Pogacar, 23, mentioned Saturday, acknowledging the eventual end result. He supplied Sunday’s solely trace of a shock: a late dash into the lead on Sunday’s last lap, although he was instantly reeled again into the lead group.
“It’s going to be an fascinating couple of years forward for us,” Pogacar mentioned of his nascent rivalry with Vingegaard. “He’s stepped up from final 12 months, he’s taken management of issues from the start, and he’s proved he’s a robust rider.”
Going into this Tour, Pogacar almost certainly 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 indicate what he may do. His efficiency was breathtaking — and surprising. On the daunting Mont Ventoux, he left Pogacar behind to document one of many quickest occasions ever for that legendary climb.
Vingegaard’s total profession has been nothing in need of 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 unit the place he gutted, cleaned and packed fish into ice-filled bins. Earlier than that, he labored at a fish public sale. He credit these days of waking at 4 a.m. 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, was at his aspect all the best way.
Van Aert had his personal exceptional race, spending day-after-day of the Tour besides the primary within the inexperienced jersey, which is awarded to the rider who accumulates essentially the most factors for stage finishes and in midrace dash sections. However his largest achievement over the previous three weeks might need been his assist of Vingegaard.
Van Aert was there for Vingegaard when his teammate wanted him essentially 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 and Pogacar are naturally the perfect climbers.
Pogacar, who was battling Vingegaard for the general lead, couldn’t sustain. As Vingegaard and van Aert stored climbing, Pogacar light, trying like a automotive with a sputtering engine because the Jumbo-Visma teammates powered forward.
The Jumbo-Visma workforce had received six of the Tour’s 20 levels coming into Sunday’s finale. After Saturday’s stage, although, Vingegaard confronted questions on his fairy-tale profession. One reporter requested him about his speedy rise within the sport, and about how he may have completed twenty second within the 2019 Danish nationwide time trial after which go on to almost 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 doable that he anticipated the query. The one 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, although 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 incorporate his total workforce. “Each considered one of us. I can say that to each considered one of you. No considered one of us is taking something unlawful.”
Excessive-altitude coaching camps and a spotlight to element — in meals, in gear, in preparation — was behind Jumbo-Visma’s rise, he mentioned. “That’s why it’s important to belief,” he mentioned.
Vingegaard seems to take sportsmanship significantly. 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. However as an alternative of making the most of Pogacar’s fall, Vingegaard waited for him down the highway, 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 shall be replayed for years for example of the nice aspect of sports activities.
However solely considered one of them was invited to climb atop the rostrum in Paris and have a good time on the Champs-Élysées. Just one obtained to pose for photographs and household recollections that can final a lifetime. And just one shall be celebrated in his house nation this summer season because the king of biking.
A sequence of ceremonies honoring Vingegaard already has been scheduled in Copenhagen, the town that hosted the beginning of this 12 months’s Tour — the kickoff to Vingegaard’s experience to victory.