A much sought victory at the Tour de France means a lot. For Dylan Groenewegen the stage 3 win was an emotional moment of redemption after he sparked Fabio Jakobsen’s crash at the 2020 Tour de Pologne and was banned for nine months by the UCI.
The Dutch rider's deeply personal joy was clearly evident as he wiped away the tears after hugging his father beyond the finish line, but the sprint victory in Sønderborgit also resonated through his new BikeExchange-Jayco team. It was a moment of relief, satisfaction and celebration for the Australian squad who are fighting to avoid relegation from the WorldTour in 2023 and still looking to land a big-name title sponsor.
The team celebrations were nearly as emotional as Groenewegen's, with one of the cars stopping in the middle of the road after the deviation around the finish so staff could hug team owner Gerry Ryan, manager Brent Copeland and other hard working staff. The elated screams rang out around the finish area.
"It was a long way [back]," Groenewegen, said, referring not only to his chase after a crash in the peloton with 10km to go, but also his own return to success after the dramatic 2020 Tour of Pologne crash.
"I want to say thanks to my team, family and friends to bring me back to the Tour in a good shape. Not physically but mentally it was a hard time, of course. After all that happened…”
Groenewegen last won a stage at the Tour de France in 2019. His team, BikeExchange-Jayco, also last won a stage in 2019. That was also the last time that Ryan had travelled to see the group he has supported for more than a decade in action at the Tour de France, with the COVID-19 pandemic delivering severe travel restrictions for those in Australia.
The businessman has been close to stopping his funding of the team a number of times but his love of the sport and of Australian cycling meant he was unable to leave them without vital financial support.
“To be here and see Dylan’s victory and see the whole team celebrate is special,” Ryan told Cyclingnews after hugging head sport director Matt White and Groenewegen’s father.
“What a fantastic effort. They knew they weren't far away on Saturday and they just stuck to the plan again. Racing is about planning, it's about persistence and it’s about having the right people and the right team. I'm very fortunate that it's a great organisation.
“It's all about resilience and our resilience paid off and we won. I'm sure there's going to be more during the Tour.”
Groenewegen finished a frustrating eighth in the stage 2 sprint in Nyborg on Saturday. He and the team were determined to make amends on Sunday and celebrated their success together.
Leadout man Luka Mezgec revealed how Groenewegen and the team transformed defeat and mistakes in Saturday’s sprint into success and celebration on Sunday.
“Dylan knew that on Saturday he should have followed me and [Michael} Matthews in the final and so he was full on today,” Mezgec explained.
“That's one of his strengths, because once he f*cks-up, then the next day, you really get that fire in him. I saw him get beaten this year but then he really stands up the next day and is at double power.
“There was a lot of pressure going into this race for us because we’re not going for the GC, so we have to put it all on the stages. We also know there are not so many sprint stages.
As a sprint team, you want to set the tone high at the beginning of the Tour. We know that if we nail one of the first stages, then for sure, it's gonna be easier also, in the next three weeks.”
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