Paris – King of the Mountains. Champion on the Champs-Elysees.
Jonas Vanjegaard blossomed from a talented rookie into a dominant leader in his own right during three weeks of epic racing to win his first Tour de France title on Sunday.
The former fish factory worker from Denmark edged out defending champion Tadij Pogakar with a memorable performance in the mountains at cycling’s biggest race.
The 25-year-old Wingegaard, who was runner-up to Pougaker in his first Tour last year, excelled in the sweltering heat that gripped France this month to come out on top in a thrilling contest with Pougaker, who initially Was the biggest favorite. of the race
Jesper Philipson won Sunday’s final stage — a processional ride around Paris to the Champs-Élysées — in a sprint ahead of Dylan Groeneugne and Alexander Kristoff.
Vanjegaard competed in the Jumbo-Vizma squad last year as a replacement for Tom Dumoulin. It was a revelation for Vanjegaard as he felt he could fight for the overall title after knocking off Pogakar on the famous Mont Ventoux climb, but his Slovenian rival was at the top of his game and largely untouchable.
A year later, Vanjegaard stood atop the podium after his victory with two extraordinary rides in the Alps and Pyrenees.
The official overall margin of victory was 2 minutes, 43 seconds but Vanguard slowed down towards the end of the stage to celebrate with teammates, crossing well after Pougaker. Geraint Thomas, the 2018 Tour champion, was 7:22 off the pace in third place.
Sainte-Perpetue, Que. K Hugo Hole, who on Tuesday became the first Canadian to win a Tour stage since 1988, finished 24th.
Ottawa’s Michael Woods entered Sunday 36th, but tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to withdraw. Montreal’s Guillaume Boivin, a teammate of both Houle and Woods, tested negative for the virus, but was unwell and did not race as a precaution. Saguenay, Que. Antoine Duchesne of France was 62nd.
Three weeks ago in Copenhagen, the Jumbo-Vizma team opened the race with two leaders — Wingegaard and three-time Spanish Vuelta winner Primoz Roglik. But Roglik’s challenge suffered a setback when he dislocated his shoulder and lost more than two minutes to Pogakar on the fifth stage of the race, leaving Vangegaard in the sole leader’s role.
Exceeded Vanguard’s expectations from that moment on.
He made his intentions clear in the first big mountain stage over Col du Granon to wrest the race leader’s yellow jersey from Pougaker, who had fallen more than two minutes back on the day. After claiming the famous grape during three monster alpine climbing stages, Vanjegaard held it until the end.
With the help of teammates including the versatile Wout Van Aert, Vingegaard responded to the relentless attacks launched by Pogacar on the day. Such was his dominance in the mountains that, in addition to his overall win, Vanjegaard also claimed the King of the Mountains jersey – not bad for a rider who hails from a country whose highest point is above sea level. It is barely 170 meters high.
Vanjegaard and Pougaker were clearly in a class of their own this year as their nearest rival, Thomas, was left as a mere spectator in the battle for the leaders.
Vanjegaard delivered his decisive blow in the Pyrenees, posting a second stage win at Hatakeme Ski Resort. There the Dane responded to a series of attacks from Pugacker and eventually dropped the Slovenian on the final big hill stage of this year’s race to extend his overall lead to more than three minutes.
Pougaker cracked about four kilometers (2 1/2 miles) from the finish on the final climb, ending his hopes of a third consecutive title. He battled to the last but Vanjegaard was once again the strongest in Saturday’s individual time trial to effectively secure the title.
“The battle between me and Jonas for the yellow jersey has been very special,” said Pugacker. “I think we have some very interesting next two or three years ahead of us.” Jonas has stepped up his game this year.
The light-framed Vanjegaard is perhaps not as naturally gifted as Pugacker, who has shown over the past few years that he is capable of winning Grand Tours and the most prestigious one-day classics.
But Vanjegard sure learns fast.
Vanjegaard did not experience his first climb until he was 16 years old. His climbing skills wouldn’t go unnoticed for long, though.
After posting a record time on the Coll de Rates climb during a training camp in Spain with his former team ColoQuick, he joined Jumbo-Visma in 2019 and improved rapidly. In his first Tour last year, he showed leadership skills after Roglik crashed out of the race, and followed up with a cold-blooded ride to victory this summer.
The growing rivalry between Pogacar and Vingegaard has brought new race scenarios that have delighted fans.
Both men were equipped with strong teams capable of controlling the race in the mountains, an essential element that had been a trademark of the powerful Ineos teams over the past decade. But on many occasions, both Pougakar and Wingegaard fought each other on equal terms, relying only on themselves at altitude.
Pogakar also evoked a sense of old-fashioned romance with his long-range attacks. At the age of 23, the future is bright for the UAE-Emirates team.
Vanjegaard became the first Dane to win the Tour since Bjarne Riis in 1996 at a time when doping in cycling was widespread.
After his retirement from cycling, Riis admitted in 2007 to using the blood booster EPO from 1993-98, including during his Tour victories.
Asked if his team should be trusted, Vanjegaard said he and his teammates “every single one of us is pretty clear.”
“None of us are taking anything illegal,” he added. “I think why we’re so good is the preparation we do. We take high altitude camps to the next level.