When asked about the favorite for overall victory before the Tour de France, which ended on Sunday, the name Tadej Pogacar often came up. Certainly also because the Slovenian had already triumphed in 2020 and 2021 in what is probably the most traditional cycling race in the world. But if there is no drama in the last few meters of the Tour of France, Jonas Vingegaard will cross the finish line on Sunday around 7.30 p.m. in the yellow jersey on the Champs-Élysées – just like last year.
Objectively speaking, that’s not a big surprise, as the Dane was strong again this year. In addition, his worst opponent has not competed since April 23, when he broke his navicular bone, apart from the Slovenian championship. It was amazing that it still took until the 17th stage before Pogacar had to be demolished.
Until then, they fought dogged duels – and were asked almost every day how their extraordinary performances came about. Especially in cycling, strong performances have been critically questioned since the scandals of the past decades. Many professionals find this unfair compared to other sports, where the topic of doping usually only comes up when there is actually a case. Vingegaard and Pogacar are different.
“I understand the skepticism,” said Vingegaard, “we also have to remain skeptical after what happened in the past.” Because the Danish cycling scene was also deep in the doping swamp – think of Bjarne Riis, the Tour winner in 1996, or Michael Rasmussen, who was taken out of the Tour by his team Rabobank in 2007 in the yellow jersey.
Pogacar doesn’t mind awkward questions either. “I can understand that,” he says. If World Champion Remco Evenepoel were there and the duel was a three-way battle, the Belgian would not be able to avoid this procedure either.
Vingegaard even had to answer a question about a remedy called Thyrax. He doesn’t know that, so he doesn’t take it either, he said. Thyrax is a drug given for an underactive thyroid. An anonymous professional told the Belgian cycling magazine “Wielerflits”: “You can fly with it.” Medical background: Thyroid hormones are said to provide more energy. Thyrax is not (yet) on the doping list, so professionals could safely admit to taking it.
But the tour is officially clean so far. None of the tests – and a lot has been tested – have been positive so far. And so the romantic story of Jonas Vingegaard continues.
About the boy from Jutland who worked part-time in a fish factory five and a half years ago and is now winning the Tour de France for the second time. His family will receive him in Paris, Pogacar will congratulate him fairly and next year there will probably be the third edition of this duel that has so fascinated the cycling world.
Vingegaard dutifully refused early congratulations, which were already given after the 17th stage. “Pogacar is not one to give up,” he said. Funnily enough, he repeated the phrase even on Friday night when his lead was seven and a half minutes.
The high-flyer maintained that comfortable lead on Saturday on the penultimate stage of the tour. However, the 133.5 kilometers through the Vosges to the Le Markstein ski area was won again by the great adversary: Pogacar finished first, Vingegaard was third.
With a Pogacar with the necessary competition kilometers in its legs, the race might have remained exciting for longer. But even so, the “toughest tour in a long time” (Pogacar) was also one of the most exciting for a long time. Nine seconds was the smallest gap between the two top pros. There were eight at the end of the 1989 tour between Greg Lemond and Laurent Fignon. Experiencing such a showdown was something you could dream of at the 110th Tour de France in 2023 – at least briefly. Then Vingegaard turned it up.