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Denmark gives Tour de France perfect Grand Départ

Magnus Cort in the mountain classification jersey at the Tour de France
Magnus Cort in the mountain classification jersey at the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Tour de France riders flew to France late on Sunday, ending the three days of racing in Denmark with the noise of the huge Danish crowds still ringing in their ears and their affection and support, a special memory of this year’s Grand Départ.

The racing might not have been overly aggressive due to head winds but the millions of roadside fans celebrated the Tour de France and the Danish love of cycling.  

Magnus Cort’s attack on stage 2 to take the polka-dot king of the mountains jersey and then his solo attack on Sunday gave the Danish fans something special to cheer for. Mads Pedersen failed to pull off his dream of winning a stage in Denmark but his determination was also appreciated by the crowds, with hundreds of fans waiting for him at the Trek-Segafredo bus and the former world champion coming off to show his gratitude.      

Dozens of riders posted images of the huge crowds on social media, thanking them for turning out along the route, for respecting the safety rules and so as to avoid causing any crashes.

A shooting in a shopping centre in Copenhagen on Sunday afternoon was a stark reminder of global events but the Tour de France had left the Danish capital on Saturday morning. The race offered its condolences to the victims and their families. 

"The Tour de France assures the Danish people of its sympathy and compassion in this time. The Tour is extremely shocked and saddened to hear of what has happened in Copenhagen," a statement from the race organisers said.

"The people of Copenhagen had given the peloton one of the greatest welcomes in the sport's history, forging deep bonds with all its followers. The entire caravan of the Tour de France sends its sincerest condolences to the victims and their families."

For the Tour de France organiser, the Danish Grand Départ raised the bar for international Tour de France starts. The local organisers were criticised for the estimated €10 million paid to ASO but it seemed justified after three days of racing.

For many people, the days in Denmark recalled the 2014 Grand Depart in Yorkshire. In 2023, the Basque Country will be under pressure to host a great Grand Départ, while Florence in Italy is expected to host the 2024 Grand Départ.

Peter Sagan was angry to be squeezed towards the barriers by Wout van Aert in the Sønderborg sprint on Sunday afternoon but was happy to have raced in Denmark.

“They were hectic days, with high-speed finals but it was beautiful to race in Denmark, especially after two hard years for cycling due to COVID-19 restrictions,” he said.

Philippe Gilbert is riding his 12th and final Tour de France of his career and thanked the fans who held up a life-size cardboard cut out of him saying: “Merci Phil Gil”

“Merci à vous! Thank you Danish fans, for your overwhelming cheers and support. It was truly unforgettable, a real “Grand” Depart. Mange tak!” Gilberto wrote on social media.

Magnus Cort’s two big days out front

Magnus Cort at the Tour de France

Magnus Cort at the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)

Magus Cort personified the exchange of sporting spectacle for affection support on both Saturday and Sunday.  It ensured he became a new national hero.

“It was amazing to be there,” he said, the usually quiet Dane clearly emotional as he spoke about his two days at the front of the race.  

“The sheer number of people out on the road was amazing. There were all the Danish flags flying and the names written on the road. It was truly something special.”

Cort is a successful sprinter but hatched a plan to target the polka-dot jersey on the eve of the race. The EF Education-EasyPost team backed him and so he jumped in the break on stage 1. He distanced possible rival Pierre Rolland of B&B Hotels and then made sure he was first to the top of all three category four climbs drung stage 1, cheekily sprinting to the summit of the final climb and raising his arms in celebration. All of Denmark celebrated with him.

It was the postcard memory of the Danish Grand Départ and so Cort attacked again on Sunday, this spending most of the stage out front alone to lap up the cheers.      

“After Saturday, I knew there’d again be massive crowds and being out front alone, solo, was a lot of fun,” he said, the red polka-dot clashing with the bright pink and tie-die colours of his EF Education-EasyPost and Palace colours.  

“I was happy to go away alone. I knew I wouldn’t  get bored with all the people cheering me on,” he said.  

“There were a lot of advantages to being out there. The mountains jersey was secured for another day and then I had the crowds all to myself. Having so many people cheering just for me as I passed was unbelievable.”

“Riding out front like that is different to sprinting to victory but these are days I’ll remember forever.”

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Stephen Farrand
Stephen Farrand

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.