After confirming second on GC, Vingegaard says, ‘I’m still the same Jonas’
Jonas Vingegaard has been one of the revelations of the 2021 Tour de France. The young Dane stepped into the void left by Jumbo-Visma leader Primož Roglič and seemed only to get stronger as the race progressed into its final week.
“I’m really happy about being second in the Tour. There’s a lot more attention now, but that’s just a part of the game,” Vingegaard said in the press conference after stage 20. “I think there are some who like [the media attention] more than me, but for now I just take it quite easy, I’m no different than I was before, I’m still the same Jonas.”
With a brilliant third-place finish in the stage 20 time trial, Vingegaard consolidated his hold on second overall, despite having to wear the best young rider’s skinsuit on behalf of race leader Tadej Pogačar. He sits 5:20 behind the yellow jersey, and many have wondered how different things might have been had he been protected from day one.
“I would be closer to him because I waited for Primož when he crashed [on stage 3], but that was only 1:20, and it wouldn’t have made any difference on the GC at all,” Vingegaard explained. “I would still have been second because Pogačar was just so strong in the rainy stages, basically we couldn’t do anything.”
Another major storyline underpinning Vingegaard’s race has been team tactics. On stage 15 to Andorra, for instance, the 24-year-old was left isolated while the team’s three best remaining climbers got into the breakaway.
“It was part of the tactics,” assured Vingegaard. “We wanted to go for stage wins – it also gives us a lot of motivation if we win stages – and also if I would have any problems, they would fall back to help me. Especially on the Andorra stage, I think we did a super super job. Steven [Kruijswijk] fell back at the right moment and then later on Wout [van Aert] came back, so I was actually the only guy who had a helper at the end, and still we won the stage.”
One reason given for Vingegaard being left to his own devices is that he’s struggled with the pressures of leadership in previous years.
“In the past I’ve had a lot of problems with dealing with stress,” Vingegaard explained. “I learned a lot about myself and I’ve learned how to deal with it now. It was also nice to show myself that I can handle the pressure, I can handle the stress that’s in the Tour, because it doesn’t get any worse – if you can say that – than this.”
The third week of the Tour de France always hosts a mountain showdown and this year was no different. Everyone expected Pogačar to climb to the top in the Pyrenees, and he did just that, but Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) were always close behind. With Carapaz playing games, the first signs of a Pogačar-Vingegaard alliance flared up on the final climb of stage 17, sparking hopes of a friendly rivalry in years to come.
“We really respect each other, Pogačar is a really nice guy,” said Vingegaard. “We also help each other when we have to, but we’re also kind of enemies.
“We battled a lot, at least in the last two weeks. I don’t know about today, he already had five and a half minutes, so I don’t know if he went full for it, but I took a bit of time on him and I guess that’s also a bit of confidence for the future that he’s not unbeatable.”
The first, and perhaps only, sign of weakness from the 22-year-old Slovenian came on stage 11, where Vingegaard distanced Pogačar near the top of the second ascent of Mont Ventoux.
“When I dropped Pogačar, I realised that if I keep at least a high level during the third week, then I can do something really good,” said Vingegaard. “Luckily now I’m here and it’s a dream come true for me.”
On Sunday evening, Vingegaard will stand alongside Pogačar on the final podium of the Tour de France, the first Danish rider to do so since 1996. This is especially noteworthy given that Denmark will host the Tour’s Grand Depart in 2022.
“Next year it’s coming to Copenhagen so that’s going to be really special,” Vingegaard said to finish the press conference. “I really hope to be there with the strongest possible team. It’s going to be special to start the Tour de France in my home country.”