(Photo by CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/AFP via Getty Images)

Jonas Vingegaard and Jumbo-Visma risked the Tour to try to win it

"If I don’t try I’m not going to win," said Vingegaard, after taking the fight to Pogačar.

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Fourteen days ago in Copenhagen, Jonas Vingegaard rolled onto the stage at the team presentation and was met with a wall of sound. His home crowd chanted his name, and the great hope of Danish cycling was overcome. With a gentle smile and tears in his eyes, he took a moment to take it all in, took a deep breath, steadied himself for the race to come. 

On stage 11, that race exploded. On the Telegraphe and the Galibier and the Col du Granon the two top GC favourites of the race – defending champion Tadej Pogačar and Vingegaard, last year’s runner up – were tied together, sizing each other up in a small group of less fancied rivals. But something was different. When Quintana went, Bardet went, Vingegaard went, and then he was gone.

Vingegaard chases after Romain Bardet on the Col du Glandon, leaving Tadej Pogačar behind. (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Pogačar’s last lieutenant Rafał Majka tried to respond, but his acceleration wasn’t enough to claw Vingegaard back, and seemed at risk of distancing his team leader. Majka blew, Pogačar was isolated, and the gap kept growing. 

Pogačar’s attempt to regain the wheel of his biggest rival in the race was brief and brutal to watch. Jersey open, slumped and in visible discomfort, the Slovenian watched the race ride away from him in a way that he hasn’t had to for years. “I was suffering ’til the end,” he reflected afterward.

Jonas Vingegaard was suffering too, describing the Col du Granon afterwards as a “brutal climb … I was suffering a lot and I just wanted it to be over. I was completely on the limit from 3k to go already,” the Dane said after the finish, having ridden himself into the yellow jersey, a debut Tour stage win, and more than a two minute lead on GC. 

An out of sorts Tadej Pogačar crosses the line having lost three minutes to Vingegaard on the stage. (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Vingegaard’s breakthrough was built on Pogačar’s breakdown, but a stellar team performance from Jumbo-Visma laid the foundations. Wout van Aert was first to go up the road, collecting early green jersey points and placing himself in a breakaway group, later joined by Christophe Laporte. On the Col du Telegraphe, Primoz Roglič was tenderising Pogačar with repeated accelerations, interspersed with attacks from Vingegaard. “I went full and you never know but I really had nothing to lose,” Roglič said after the stage, having sacrificed his own GC chances for his teammate.

“It shows how big a rider Primož is,” Vingegaard countered. “He really went deep there so that we could challenge Tadej.”

By the top of the Galibier, having responded to eight attacks from the Jumbo-Visma duo, Pogačar was towing Vingegaard to the summit. The duo glided upward in a class of their own, locked in a groove through the tunnel of noise. On the lonely slopes of the Col du Granon, a day’s worth of effort from the entire team placed Jonas Vingegaard in yellow. 

Vingegaard’s teammates Primož Roglič (centre) and Sepp Kuss celebrate as they finish the stage. (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

He’s a humble and articulate guy, Jonas Vingegaard, and in the post-race press conference he was quick to assign credit elsewhere – his partner, his daughter, his team. “I took a lot of time today but I never would have done that without my teammates,” he said. “I have to thank all of them – I would never have done it without my teammates … I think it shows the mentality of the team.”

He still had to turn himself inside out to finish the job, though. 

As Vingegaard reflected on what had just happened, an ecstatic Wout van Aert burst into the marquee, grabbing Vingegaard in a hug. “I’m proud of you,” the Belgian said. “Fucking hell,” responded the Dane, in awe of the moment. 

Recomposing himself in front of the cameras, he tried to articulate what it all meant. “Right from when I started cycling, I couldn’t even dream of winning a stage and being in the yellow jersey,” he said.

(Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

And so, on the podium at the top of Col du Granon, just like two weeks earlier, Jonas Vingegaard was met with a wall of sound.

Now in yellow, with a gentle smile and tears in his eyes, he took a moment to take it all in, took a deep breath, steadied himself for the race to come. 

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