Jonas Vingegaard: I'm under less pressure this year to win the Tour de France

Jonas Vingegaard
Jonas Vingegaard (Image credit: Getty)

Defending Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard is as determined as ever to take a second straight title in the world’s biggest bike race, but the Danish star says that when it comes to fighting for the victory this July in France, he feels he is under less pressure than in 2022.

Second in the 2021 Tour de France prior to defeating Tadej Pogačar in 2022 and claiming his first Grand Tour victory, Vingegaard is convinced he has every chance of repeating his triumph this summer.

The 26-year-old is currently putting the last pieces in the jigsaw of his preparation into place, including a recon on Friday of the Tour de France’s stage 9 at the Puy de Dôme, where he crossed paths with Enric Mas (Movistar) and Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers). Both Mas and Bernal will likely be key rivals come July as well as taking part, like Vingegaard, in the Critérium du Dauphiné, which starts Sunday in the nearby town of Chambon-sur-Lac.

But as the Jumbo-Visma racer told a small group of reporters in an interview prior to his return to racing after a two-month break, the morale boost he gained thanks to his 2022 Tour triumph will help spur him on against whichever opponent he has to face in four weeks time: including Pogačar.

“I think winning the Tour gives me a lot of confidence, and I believe I can do it again. A lot of things can happen, and I’ll have to be at my best level, but I think I can do it,” Vingegaard said.

As for the increased expectations surrounding him as defending champion, Vingegaard reasoned that “The feeling I have now is one of less pressure, now I’ve won it once. Even if I never win it again and I retire in 10 years, I can still say I’ve won it and be proud of my career.”

Vingegaard has only taken part in three races so far this year, but if he was defeated by both Pogačar and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) in Paris-Nice, he bounced back with a vengeance a few weeks later at Itzulia Basque Country, where he claimed the overall victory and three stages.

Yet he remained cautious about his current condition compared to 2022 at this point, saying, “It’s always hard to tell. I think my whole spring has been better, and there haven’t been any issues or sickness or anything. But it’s hard to compare, and we’ve changed equipment as well, so it’s harder to say if I’m stronger.”

Second in the Dauphine last year, Vingegaard said that rather than look for a particular result, he would adopt a strategy of taking the eight-day race day by day and seeing how it worked out.

The Dauphine is a “super-nice race,” he said, by way of explaining why he had returned to it for three years in a row. But his eye was much more on the bigger prize of July. Or, as he put it, “If I had to choose between the two races, it’d be 100 percent for the Tour.”

“Normally, this race doesn’t decide the Tour,” he pointed out, “you might not be good here, and still, everything can change before July.

“I haven’t really thought too much about it, it doesn’t make sense that I go full gas in flat stages, so I’ll take it on the day-by-day. If there’s a chance, I’ll go for it.

“The [stage 4] time trial is an advantage, but we’ve seen every once in a while you can do a bad TT. Also, in the other stages, we’ll have to see how everything turns out.

“I’m looking forward to racing again, anyway, it’s been a while now.”

Taking on Pogačar

Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard on the podium of the 2022 Tour de France

Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard on the podium of the 2022 Tour de France (Image credit: Getty)

As for the upcoming duel against Pogačar in July, Vingegaard expressed the hope that the Slovenian would be be back to full strength for the Tour and he described the UAE racer’s spectacular spring season as “impressive.” The two had not spoken, he said, about Pogačar’s current condition following his accident,, with the Dane somewhat curtly telling one journalist, “you’ll have to ask him about that.”

“It’d be nicer if he’s at 100 percent [for the Tour],” Vingegaard said, “I hope he’s at his best level.” Bu het was also insistent that just because he had been defeated at Paris-Nice by Pogačar, that didn’t change anything in the summer.

“Paris-Nice was four months ago and inbetween a lot of things can happen. He was also stronger than me in Tirreno in 2022,” Vingegaard pointed out. “So I’m taking it easy for now. It [Paris-Nice] won’t decide the Tour.”

Meanwhile Vingegaard is focussing strongly on his own race program and team. Jumbo-Visma will be lacking both defending Dauphiné champion Primoz Roglic at both the week-long event and the Tour de France, while another top teammate, Wout van Aert has opted to skip the Dauphiné and race at the Tour de Suisse prior to heading to the Tour start.

“I know Primoz has his program, he did the Giro, and I think it would be a lot for him to do the Tour as well,” Vingegaard said, all but dismissing the rumours Roglic might be a late addition to the Jumbo Tour line-up. “For now, I’m focussing on the team I have and I’m very happy with them.”

At the Dauphine that includes Christophe Laporte, Nathan van Hooydonck, Steven Kruijswijk and Tiesj Benoot all of whom were key support riders for Vingegaard last July, as well as Dylan van Baarle, who played a similar role for Ineos in the 2022 Tour before signing for Jumbo-Visma over the winter.

What role for Wout van Aert?

Wout van Aert at a post-2022 Tour de France criterium

Wout van Aert at a post-2022 Tour de France criterium (Image credit: Getty)

As for the absence of Wout van Aert from the Dauphine, where the Belgian won two stages and led the race for all bar one day up to the final crunch mountain stage last year, Vingegaard said he was sure Van Aert's decision to ride Suisse instead would work out well.

“I’m pretty sure Wout will be where he has to be,” Vingegaard said, “he has his own goals, I have mine. He wanted to do the Tour de Suisse and I have to respect that, that’s his choice.”

Despite the absence of a key player like Roglic from the Jumbo line-up, he did not expect Van Aert to step up even more than he did last year in the Tour de France, given Van Aert was already one of the strongest riders on almost all terrains.

“That would be hard, we saw Wout stepped up last year already,” he reasoned. “He was on of my best helpers. If he steps up (any more) he’ll be a GC contender instead.”

As for his own progress, while the Dauphiné represents another expected step along the way, he recognised that COVID-19, such a factor in the Giro d’Italia and last year in the Tour, was “a worry”. Notably cagy about whether he would quit the Tour if he caught it - “I can’t answer that, hopefully it won’t happen,” was all he would say -  Vingegaard was more forthcoming about how he felt about the risks in general and what Jumbo-Visma were doing about them.

“For sure, it’s something have to be careful about, we were already careful last year, and now you get a bit scared seeing how it was in the Giro d’Italia. So I have to stay focussed and try to not get sick.” The team are using single rooms in their hotels he said, “”and I stay in my own room, try not to shake hands with people and avoid too much contact.”

After refusing pointblank to give any examples of how he had changed his overall build-up for the Tour between 2022 and 2023, Vingegaard confirmed that “You always try to improve it, you look back up see what went well and what didn’t then make it a better one. We’ve also tried it this year.”

The Dauphine, though, remains on the program, just as it did in 2021 and 2022, and it will once again likely be Vingegaard’s last race before the Tour de France. And even if the Dauphiné is not an over-riding goal, if there’s any doubt about Vingegaard’s ambition remaining unquenched, he resolved that with his answer about the race - and racing in general.

“I’d like to win it, but not as revenge for anything that happened before;” he explained. “I just like to do as well as possible every time.” And in July, of course, that won't be any different, either.

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.