The revelation of the Tour de France 2021 – .

The revelation of the Tour de France 2021 – .

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Say it with me: “Yo-nus Ving-a-go”

I know, I know – these sounds don’t exactly come out of the American language. Nonetheless, I ask you to memorize the name “Jonas Vingegaard” (pronunciation: see above), as we will likely see him reach huge heights in grand tour races in the years to come.

Vingegaard, 24, is undoubtedly the revelation of this Tour de France, and he went from being named “that Danish guy with the funny name on Jumbo-Visma” to the high position of the only rider able to challenge Tadej Pogačar on the highest mountains. He can climb. He can start a quick individual time trial. And he’s extremely smart – his 2021 run is one of the most impressive breakthroughs we’ve seen in recent memory.

On Wednesday, during stage 17, the star of Vingegaard shone even more on the finish at the top of the Col de Portet.

Pogacar’s acceleration on the last summit shredded the group of favorites until only Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz remained. After Carapaz attacked within the last 2 kilometers, Vingegaard was pushed aside from the back.

But rather than give in to the rhythm, Vingegaard gritted his teeth and started to push his way, only to catch up for the finish. He jostled Carapaz to finish second on the stage and climb to 2nd place in the general classification. It was a tough, determined race that you don’t often see new performers on the bigger cycling scene.

What Vingegaard achieved on this Tour de France is historically remarkable. Of course, every few years we see riders go from zero to hero in the GC battles of the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia. That doesn’t really happen in the Tour de France, where the few landmark races we see come in the form of stage wins or top 10 flirtations.

On the Tour, the battle for the final podium rarely brings a whole new rider into the collective consciousness. The battle for the podium on the Tour is a place for grizzled veterans, aspiring superstars and the best dogs in their respective bounties. This is not the place for riders with names we haven’t learned how to pronounce yet.

I can’t remember the last time we saw a rider with this level of anonymity fight for the Tour de France podium. In 2018, Primož Roglič was still known as the ski jumper turned cyclist when he flirted with the podium. But even then, Roglič had already won stage victories on the Tour and the Giro.

In 2014, Jean-Christophe Peraud’s 2nd place shocked fans, but Peraud had been touring the WorldTour for over a decade at that time. Even Nairo Quintana’s exciting Tour debut in 2013 came one year after winning a stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and three years after winning the Tour l’Avenir.

What is Vingegaard’s most remarkable result ahead of the 2021 season? In 2019, he won a stage of the Tour of Poland. Hey, that’s not an outcome to be minimized, because a win is a win. But it’s not exactly a grand tour stop, or the GC in the Future.

There has been a lot of writing about his rapid rise, and much of it has focused on his recent transition to a full-time professional cyclist. Vingegaard worked in a fish factory, which I can only assume is the Danish version of an American kid delivering pizza.

Of course, Vingegaard’s thrilling race this year is due to Roglič’s disappearance in the Tour’s opening week. The falls and injuries that forced Roglič to give up opened the door for Vingegaard to take on the role of the team’s GC.

But here’s the big difference between a new rider like Vingegaard and a grizzled veteran, rising superstar, or usual GC favorite. He has very little outside pressure on his shoulders right now. Since he’s never been in that position, he can’t bear the brunt of expectations, nor the pressure from his teammates and team management to go out there and score every move and win.

And that’s about to change. You see, Vingegaard’s huge race this year will undoubtedly propel him into overall leader roles in future races. And with these assignments come the pressure, the expectations and the stress. He will no longer fly under the radar, and that will undoubtedly have an impact on the way he mentally approaches racing. Next, we’ll see if Jonas Vingegaard has the mental and emotional skills to thrive in the pressure cooker of professional cycling.

I posed this question to Brent Bookwatler earlier this week on the VeloNews podcast, and he offered a smart perspective on Vingegaard’s charmed position on the 2021 Tour.

“It showcases the power of belief without expectation. You see with a lot of these big tour favorites that they are under so much stress and pressure, ”he said. “Young guys – the level is getting higher and higher and more and more are expected from the start. It’s a perfect storm to have all of this ability and to have all of the belief and then to have the opportunity and to go in. He probably didn’t expect to make the Tour’s overall standings this year, but he’s clearly shown he can. People forget that when these GC podiums happen, more often than not there are several guys in the team who are at that level, and they put it on the line and sacrifice it for the leader.

What does it mean? As fans we always have to remember that there are a lot of strong riders in the peloton, but not all of them get the chance to shine. And when we see these opportunities open up, and young riders are allowed to attack and ride without waiting, we should appreciate these very special moments in time.

We must realize that we are seeing a star from the future ignite before our eyes.


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