Jonas Vingegaard is a paradox, a natural climber born in a country whose summit (the Yding Skovoj) culminates at 173 meters and returns 37 to the Montpanasse Tower. If the tectonics of the plates did not spoil them for the passes, the Danes are a people of travelers and of Julyists too. The compatriots in the yellow jersey have made Alpe d’Huez their mountain, like the Dutch before them.

Thursday July 14, the Jumbo-Visma runner was a bit at home attacking the 21 laces of the Isère station, the 9th of which officially became that of the Danes. “Alpe d’Huez?” it was better than I imagined, admitted Jonas Vingegaard for his first climb in the race. Contrary to what I had seen some times, there was room to pass. »

Enough for Tadej Pogacar to try to invite himself to the Nordic party in the last five kilometers. The UAE team runner placed two firecrackers. Impassive, Jonas Vingegaard returned to his wheel. A tie “match” maybe (both riders finishing at the same time), but the message got through: Tadej Pogacar didn’t bring with him a flag in the color of his best youngster jersey.

The day before, the double defending champion had nevertheless taken quite a blow from “Granon” on the helmet. In this pass, witness to his first major failure, the Slovenian dropped nearly three minutes to a Jonas Vingegaard placed in orbit by the Jumbo launcher. Whoever appeared invincible in the first week must now scratch his head to know where and how to recover his disbursement of 2 minutes 22 on his 2021 runner-up in the general classification.

Full Squad vs. Association of Cripples

The ascent of Alpe d’Huez was a first ground for reconquering power. Tadej Pogacar tried, to reassure himself already and see what he still had in his stomach after his Granon bar. “I know why I suffered yesterday (Wednesday), I spent too much energy on the climb to Galibier, he regrets. It won’t happen again. Jonas is super strong but we will both fight until the end. »

For the moment, the Dane gives the impression of wanting to mark his rival with his pants more than to send him to the mat. “When I tried to attack, Jonas (Vingegaard) never counter-attacked, which I would have liked, it would have allowed me to respond in my turn, regrets Pogacar. But he just followed me, and I wasn’t strong enough to let him go. »

The Jumbo however paid with a victory in the Grande Boucle for not having sought to drive the point home and the gaps against a Tadej Pogacar taken for small fry. The image of Primoz Roglic, defeated and with his helmet askew during the time trial of the Planche des Belles-Filles, still acts as a call to order.

This September 19, 2020, Tadej Pogacar had returned the race and the destiny of his compatriot to his favorite ground, despite 57 seconds behind. A chasm was thought on the side of the very rational minds of the sporting directors and other performance strategists of the Dutch team.

Jonas Vinegaard had witnessed the sinking in front of his TV. At the time, he was just one emerging talent among the black and yellow. A boy reputed to be sensitive and not always sure of himself, he now displays unfailing confidence, especially in the collective strength of his team. “My team is probably the best in the Tour, we’ve proven that in these last two stages,” he said. Hard to fault him.

The yellow jersey has a squad still complete where even the least good climber of the lot, the Belgian Nathan Van Hooydonck, manages to put half the peloton to death in the Col du Galibier. In comparison, the UAE team looks like a crippled association between a Marc Hirschi never very far from the sweeper car, George Bennett and Vegard Stake Laengen fallen in the field of honor from the swab after positive tests for Covid 19 and a “covided” Rafal Majka as well, but cleared to continue due to very low risk of infectivity.

“Vingegaard can also have a bad day”

On paper, the Emiratis go hunting for Vingegaard with a defective water gun. However, Tadej Pogacar’s comrades believe in a “remontada”. “This Tour is not over, Tadej had a bad day but he will do everything to reverse the situation”, warns the Polish Rafal Majka, convinced that his leader is capable of all exploits.

His short career serves as a wake-up call for any of his opponents. When you beat the best riders in the exercise of the time trial or martyrize the specialists in the cobbled mountains of the last Tour of Flanders, it means that you are made of another metal. “His failure? it’s probably a power problem, it can happen, ”puts his Spanish teammate, Marc Soler, into perspective.

The Movistar defector does not yet reveal the plans of his young boss. Will he bet everything on one of the two stages in the Pyrenees at the risk of losing everything or try to make up for his delay before the time trial the day before the finish, cut for his qualities on the steep roads of the Lot ? “We still have to hope, continues Marc Soler. Vingegaard can also have a bad day. All riders have a bad day on the Tour. »

But apart from an incredible change of bike during the cobblestone stage, the Dane achieved a faultless performance and forgot his complexes. “I’ve made progress mentally,” he said. I saw last year that I had the level to win the Tour. With the support of my team, I run with more confidence. “For Tadej Pogacar, the challenge is all the greater and exhilarating. At the top of the Granon, the latter made a promise at the microphone of France 2: “You’ll see, it’s going to be nice to follow our duel on television. »