Jonas Vingegaard’s defensive management is surprising: “It’s a shame”

There is dust all over Matteo Jorgenson’s face as he returns to the Visma-Lease a Bike team bus on Sunday after more than four hours of gravel cycling. When he takes off his glasses, the frames are etched into his forehead. “Wow,” he laughs: “That went well. And now I deserve a shower.”

So Jorgenson has every reason to laugh. He has just guided his leader Jonas Vingegaard safely and without losing time over more than 32 kilometres of dirt tracks. And that is a victory for the team of the defending champion. Great victory.

Vingegaard was less happy

Because Vingegaard was not having a good time on the ninth stage of the Tour de France, from Troyes to Troyes, 199 kilometres and fourteen strips of gravel. Especially in places where the stones were looser and the dust obscured the view of the riders, he did not necessarily feel comfortable. In any case, less comfortable than the other favourites, Tadej Pogacar and Remco Evenepoel. Moreover, after one of those dreaded punctures, he had ridden half of the stage on the bike of his teammate Jan Tratnik (the difference in saddle height was three millimetres).

He then spoke out strongly against the gravel strips. “I will never hide the fact that I am not in favour of this clay. You know it beforehand, you prepare for it, but I think it is an unnecessary risk.” He also thanked his team for the work they had done: “Without them I would not have been here.”

With his words, Vingegaard echoed the sentiments of many in the peloton regarding the more than thirty kilometres of gravel strips. Gravel has no place in elite sport, it was previously thought: the luck factor was too great. One puncture and the whole Tour could have been lost. And the chances of bad luck were high. A few days before the race, trucks began dumping extra gravel in places where there were too large potholes in the road.

Evenepoel and Pogacar had fun

But then Pogacar and Evenepoel were asked and their stories of the race sounded very different. Pogacar, a great lover of the surface, had had a good time and had been attacked several times (“It’s just better to be in front on gravel”). And Remco Evenepoel had also “had fun” on the stones, he said.

The current number 1 and number 2 in the rankings also based their tactics on this feeling. Together they wanted to make a difference. Pogacar attacked for the first time 90 kilometres from the finish, Evenepoel 77 kilometres from the finish, well behind the winner Anthony Turgis, who won the final sprint against a strong leading group.

Behind them, Vingegaard barely caught up again and again, most recently with help from Jorgenson. The Dane then refused to cooperate, even when it turned out that Evenepoel had also fallen behind due to a bad position. Thanks to that interference, all the favourites eventually crossed the finish line at the same time.

According to team leader Arthur van Dongen, Visma’s tactics had already been agreed. It had already been decided before the race not to run Pogacar, even though that would mean that competitors such as Evenepoel, Primoz Roglic and Carlos Rodriguez could keep up. “Why would you follow the strong path of your competitor, only to be let go again? No, we weren’t going to do that.”

The opposition expected Vingegaard to join

Defensive driving, because the leader was not on his territory. It was a choice that surprised some. Evenepoel considered it a shame that Vingegaard did not want to participate in the plan to stay behind other competitors. “I think it is a bit embarrassing, but it is his tactic. And that is allowed.”

Pogacar was expecting his rival’s tactics. “I can only guess why, but they underestimated other guys like Roglic and Rodriguez. Today we could have managed to distance ourselves and secure our places on the podium. That’s how I see it, but everyone has their own opinion.”

And then he gives a little blow: “I think Jonas is afraid of me. I’m not going to forget this.”

Read also:

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Cycling was shocked on Saturday by the death of André Drege at the Tour of Austria. Shock waves also reached the Tour. Leader Tadej Pogacar was shocked: ‘We have a great job, but in most cases it is very dangerous. Sometimes we don’t appreciate enough what we have.’

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