Jonas Vingegaard: I don’t see any weaknesses in Pogacar

Tour de France 2021 - 108th Edition - 11th stage Sorgues - Malaucene 198,9 km - 07/07/2021 - Jonas Vingegaard (DEN - Jumbo - Visma) - Tadej Pogacar (SLO - UAE Team Emirates) - photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2021
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) has some important decisions ahead of him as he looks to plot his next move in Grand Tour racing but the young Dane has his heart set on racing the Tour de France next year, even if it means sharing leadership with Primož Roglič. 

Next year’s Grand Départ takes place in Denmark and rather than having sole leadership of a team at either the Giro d’Italia or Vuelta a España in 2022, this year’s surprise Tour de France runner-up would prefer to team up with Roglič in a bid to end Tadej Pogačar’s two-year reign.

“I definitely prefer the Tour de France because it starts in Denmark next year but it could be that we have two leaders in the Tour,” Vingegaard told Cyclingnews at the recent Rouleur Live event in London.

“Of course, if the team wants me to do the Vuelta instead then I’ll do that but for me personally it would be great to do the Tour de France. Maybe if it wasn’t in Denmark then maybe I’d like to do the Vuelta or the Giro, and for sure that’s something I’d want to that in the future, but if it was up to me, then for sure I would like to do the Tour. Mostly because it’s in Denmark. There’s also something special about the Tour, and you feel that when you are there. It would be really nice to be there, and I hope for it. I think that’s the plan but I’ve not heard yet.

“I’m just going to take it as it comes. We’ve not had the plan yet but I’m sure that we’re going to make the best one. My focus is still on my development. I don’t know if I’ll lead in a Grand Tour, and we’ll have to see what the team wants. They have the final answer but it would be nice, of course. It would be cool.”

Regardless of which combination of leaders Jumbo-Visma sends to the Tour next year, they will still need to contend with the dominance of Pogačar, who has barely put a foot wrong in the last two years. The Slovenian has yet to endure a truly bad day in the Tour, and in 2021, despite rivals crashing around him, looked unstoppable.

“Obviously it looks like he has no bad days on the bike but I hope we can beat him. That would be the aim. It’s the biggest race of the year so it would be incredible for us to win. I don’t see any weaknesses with him. He looks good in everything, I can’t see anything but we just need to be there every day and then try our best.”

Learning to lead

Vingegaard enjoyed a breakout season in 2021 with the 24-year-old finishing a surprise second to Pogačar at the Tour de France. The Dane wasn’t even in the Jumbo-Visma Tour line-up when it was announced last winter, but after Tom Dumoulin dropped out for personal reasons Vingegaard was fast-tracked into the eight-man roster.

Initially selected in order to provide cover for Roglič and gain experience, Vingegaard found himself leading the line after the Slovenian crashed and began to hemorrhage time. From that point on, Vingegaard took over the mantle of team leader, and although he wasn’t on Pogačar’s level, he had more than enough seal second in his debut Tour.

“It’s been a great year. Going into the season I didn’t expect such great things and it’s just amazing the development that I’ve had. I’m super happy about the season. Coming into the year I wanted to become an even better helper and develop as a rider. I achieved more than that but I’m not driven by the results when it comes to setting goals. I just want to focus on development and improvement. It’ll be the same for next year,” he said.

“I was supposed to do the Vuelta but when Tom dropped out they took me instead. In the original plan before the race I was going to be a helper but at the training camp just before we started talking about the idea of keeping me for the GC so that we could use it as a tactical game later in the race. Then all of a sudden I was the one that we were riding for. That was of course because of Primož’s crash, which was really a shame.” 

Vingegaard disclosed that it was Roglič who approached him at the Tour and explained that he no longer had the capacity to fight for GC and that the Dane should no longer wait in the mountains if the Slovenian began to struggle.

“After the time trial they were saying that I didn’t have to wait for Primož anymore but before that, the plan was to stick with him and not lose any time. After the TT we switched. In the first few days, the team were saying that if Primož crashed I should give him my bike, but after the TT Primož himself told me that I didn’t have to wait for him anymore. Then a couple of days later the team switched to me.”

Despite his quality against the clock and in the mountains, there were still questions during the Tour over Vingegaard’s experience and his ability to deal with pressure. Even his own team were uncertain as to how he would react to shouldering the responsibility of sole leadership once Roglič had left the race. Vingegaard admitted that in the past nerves and pressure had gotten the better of him, but as a young and developing pro he has learned to deal with setbacks and soak up pressure without it having a detrimental effect on his overall performance.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself, and how to handle that side of things,” he said.

“Obviously there was a lot of pressure and people talking about it at the Tour but I also handled it well. In the past, I’ve struggled with that aspect a bit because of the expectations that I’ve put on myself. At times I’ve been going great in training but thought to myself if I don’t back it up with a great result then I’m a failure. Now I just think about doing my best and there’s less focus on the result. In the past, I’ve put too much pressure on myself but now it’s different.

"I still want results but in the Tour de Pologne, during my first year as a pro, I got the leader’s jersey going into the last stage. I couldn’t handle the pressure I put on myself because I thought that I had to win. I can handle it all way better now.”

Next year, the aim is for Vingegaard to keep progressing as a professional. He is well aware that second place or the win might not be attainable if Jumbo-Visma heads to the Tour with multiple options but the Dane is focused on performance rather than podium spots at this point.

“I just want to keep developing. As long as I can see that I’m improving both physically and mentally then I’ll be pleased.”

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