Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard cross the line on stage 9 of the 2022 Tour de France.

Vingegaard: 39 seconds is not a lot, but Pogačar doesn’t have bad days

Jonas Vingegaard is almost five minutes better off than this time last year, but he expects Tadej Pogačar to be hard to shake.

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Jonas Vingegaard finished stage 9 on the coattails of Tadej Pogačar, who leads the Tour de France by 39 seconds going into the rest day. For Jumbo-Visma, which arrived in Denmark with two GC leaders and a green jersey challenger, this year’s Tour has been one of varied fortunes thus far.

“I would say with mixed feelings,” Vingegaard told media when asked how he feels after the Tour’s long first week. “We’ve done very well in the first stages without the crashes and losing time, and then on the cobbled stage we had our bit of [bad] luck. We had a crash, I dropped my chain, and then ever since it’s been good again. But yeah, the crash was not so nice, and Primož [Roglič] lost two minutes there. But we will keep on fighting and there’s still two weeks in the Tour.”

Asked about the chances of gaining time on Pogačar in the first week, and on the first Alpine stage in particular, Vingegaard was pragmatic as ever.

“We always have a plan but we also know that things can go wrong and yeah, it went wrong,” he said. “Now we just have to look at everything and see what the best possible plan is.”

This time last year, Vingegaard had only been the team’s number-one leader for a matter of hours following Roglič’s withdrawal. After the first weekend in the Alps, the then 24-year-old found himself in fourth overall and already 5:32 down on Pogačar.

This year, the gap to Pogačar is just 39 seconds, and 24 of those are bonus seconds taken on the finish line – Vingegaard took six himself with second on La Super Planche des Belles Filles.

“We’ll see,” said Vingegaard when asked about his shape compared to 2021. “Now I’m, I think, 40 seconds behind so it’s not a lot and it’s only one bad day, you could say. But I guess Tadej doesn’t have bad days. He’s very very strong and we’ll just have to do our best and try to challenge him.”

Almost inseparable, Pogačar and Vingegaard gap their rivals.

Something of a one-to-one rivalry emerged between Pogačar and Vingegaard in 2021, and the pairing has been even more pronounced this year. Only Pogačar could follow Vingegaard on stage 7, and when the yellow jersey himself launched his sprint on stage 9, Vingegaard was the only rider not to lose precious seconds.

But the gaps are far smaller than we might have expected given the young Slovenian’s apparent dominance, and with third-place Geraint Thomas leading a trio of Ineos Grenadiers still in contention, and the whole top 10 separated by just 2:13, it’s still a fairly open race.

“I think there’s a lot more riders that can fight for the victory, it’s not only me and Tadej,” Vingegaard said. “There’s a lot that can do some attacks, and we’ll just have to see in the next weeks how everything will fold out.”

Vingegaard went straight from the mixed zone to a hastily erected tent for PCR testing, organised just to make sure that the results are back in plenty of time. Earlier on Sunday, Guillaume Martin’s name was added to the list of COVID-19-related withdrawals, and with infection accelerating in France, the peloton fears the virus with two weeks left to race.

“Of course, there have been some teams that have some covid cases, but we haven’t until now and I think we’re feeling good,” he said. “Of course, there’s a chance you’ll get it, so I cross my fingers that I don’t have covid at the moment and I’ll start on Tuesday, but we’ll see tomorrow.”

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