‘Everybody should be happy’ - Why Visma-Lease a Bike still believe in yellow at the Tour de France

Despite Jonas Vingegaard losing time to his rivals in stage nine’s individual time trial, his team says that the general classification at the Tour de France is not out of reach

One minute and fifteen seconds. With 13 stages of the Tour de France remaining, this is the gap between Jonas Vingegaard and the yellow jersey. The time was lost first on the brutal slopes of the Col du Galibier, when the Danish rider was unable to follow the relentless attack from Tadej Pogačar, who then put even more distance into Vingegaard on the descent to the finish in Valloire. More seconds fell away on Friday’s individual time trial – the Visma-Lease a Bike rider looked strong in the opening kilometres but ended up losing over half a minute by the finish, seemingly struggling on the fast, technical sections of the course. The way things are going, the dream of a third Tour victory for Jonas Vingegaard is disappearing into the distance.

It is disappearing on the shoulders of Pogačar, who so far has looked in imperious form in this year’s Tour de France. Just like he did at Strade Bianche earlier in the season. And during the Ardennes Classics. And during the Giro d’Italia. Recent history of Pogačar’s form this year tells us that getting the better of him over the next three weeks is going to be one tall order for his rivals. Vingegaard, however, argues that performances this year should not be the reference point. Instead, he casts his mind back to last year and Pogačar’s famous, catastrophic blow up on the Col de la Loze on stage 17.

"Last year I took seven and a half minutes in two stages. The power is there so we just have to believe in our plan,” the Danish rider said at the end of the time trial stage.

"To be honest I think it was a good time trial for me. I'm happy with my performance and to only lose 37 seconds to Remco on a time trial that suits him pretty well is a pretty good result for me.I wouldn't say it's a big hit, rather the opposite actually. I expected to lose more time. It's a time trial that's way more favourable for him so it's good to only lose 25 seconds to him today.”

Vingegaard’s optimism was refreshing and is conducive to a man who has won two Tours in a row – he is not getting ahead of himself. There is plenty more road to be raced on. The flat individual time trial course of stage seven was not particularly suited to Vingegaard’s strengths and was more favoured to the specialists against the clock – something that he also believes should be kept in mind when looking at the time loss.

"Of course I have ambitions and I want to do well here, but anyway, what happens, happens and I cannot change it," he explained. "I think San Luca was the day I worried most about [before the race]. There I did not lose time and today I only lost 25 seconds on a course that suits Remco [Evenepoel] and Tadej much more than me. So I think to only lose 25 seconds is a good day for me today."

Visma-Lease a Bike sports director, Grischa Niermann, echoed a similar sentiment to his rider after the stage, explaining that the team still believes there are chances for Vingegaard to win time back later in this race.

"We knew that it wasn't a parcours for him, He did super well and I think we have to be happy with that. I think he did a very good TT today,” Niermann said. "It's a great achievement that Jonas is at the start of the Tour de France [after his crash in Itzulia earlier this year]. He’s looking good, he’s feeling good. He’s confident and I don't think we could have hoped for more after seven days of racing.”

The Dutch team will certainly have a plan of attack for the rest of this race, and it’s very likely that Vingegaard will improve as the Tour de France continues. His endurance base and supreme mental strength will come into play in the final week, plus the race intensity that he has missed while recovering from his crash should also get sharper. 

"Of course the dream is still to win the Tour de France. [Tadej] Pogačar is looking extremely good, extremely strong and he has a strong team around him,” Niermann explained. “It will be a hard task but once again everybody should be very very happy that Jonas is here in France in the shape he is right now."

One thing that makes the Tour de France and bike racing in general so exciting is that it all can change in an instant. A day with bad legs for Pogačar could see that time gap fall extremely quickly, especially in the high mountains. At the moment, one minute and fifteen seconds is not a lot of time in the Tour de France.

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