Jonas Vingegaard ignoring mind games ahead of Tour de France title defence

By Sports Desk June 30, 2023

Jonas Vingegaard is determined not to fall for any mind games coming from the camp of Tadej Pogacar as the Dane prepares to defend his Tour de France title.

The form of Pogacar, winner of the Tour in both 2020 and 2021, is largely unknown given he has raced only once – cruising to the Slovenian national title last weekend – since breaking his wrist at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

On Wednesday, UAE Team Emirates Mauro Gianetti declared Lancastrian Adam Yates to be co-leader of the team alongside Pogacar due to the uncertainty. Pogacar followed up as he labelled Vingegaard the clear favourite for yellow.

The 24-year-old even seemed to add a hint of sarcasm as he said: “Jonas is the main guy for the Tour de France. He dominated in the (Criterium du) Dauphine and said he wasn’t in his best shape, so I can’t wait to see what he does in the Tour.”

Twelve months ago, Vingegaard rode into yellow when Pogacar cracked on stage 11 to the summit of the Col du Granon, never looking back as he comfortably defended the lead all the way to Paris.

The 26-year-old carried all the assurance of a proven winner as he insisted he was ignoring all the noise coming from his main rival.

“It is quite easy,” the Jumbo-Visma rider said. “I only think about myself. I only think about preparing myself as well as possible. I think about how do I get better, what can I do to improve.

“I have only been thinking about training, pushing for the optimal. I am where I want to be. I am happy with my shape…

“I don’t think it matters to say who is the big favourite. I could also say that he is the favourite.”

Vingegaard comes back to the Tour with a title to defend, but he insisted nothing had changed in his mindset.

“On one side I am the hunted but I am also still hunting the victory so in that case it is not that different,” he said.

“Of course things change when you win the Tour de France, that’s how it is. But I didn’t change and that’s how it should be.”

Pogacar was back in training within days of his crash in April, first at home on the turbo trainer, then back out on the road earlier than scheduled.

His claim that his wrist is still not fully healed may be true, but those wondering if it is all talk will point to Thursday’s images of him pulling wheelies on a recon ride of Saturday’s opening stage.

“It’s not completely fine, I failed with the wheelie and I didn’t make it to the top (of the climb) so it’s not perfect,” he said with a laugh.

“I feel OK on the bike. The wrist is not at full mobility, I would say 60-70 per cent mobility of the wrist but every day training it didn’t bother me at all, no pain. I did a scan on Monday, two out of three bones are healed but the scaphoid needs a bit more time…

“I’m not 100 per cent, that’s why we have a plan B with Adam Yates…I think my legs are good, mentality I’m super good, I hope I’m ready.”

Given the tough opening week of the Tour, with some lumpy stages through the Basque Country before an early visit to the Pyrenees, Pogacar’s true form should become clear very quickly.

“I think this first week will be really tough and explosive, you have everything and so it’ll be interesting,” he said.

“We saw the final (of the opening stage), it’ll be super explosive. There’ll be a big selection in the end, maybe 10 or 15 riders who can go for the stage win. If I’m ready, it could be a chance to take time.”

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