Jonas Vingegaard is set to win the Tour de France after finishing second to his Jumbo-Visma team-mate Wout van Aert in the stage 20 time trial to Rocamadour.
Van Aert set a time of 47 minutes 59.86 seconds over the 40.7km route from Lacapelle-Marival, 19 seconds faster than Vingegaard, who needed only to ride defensively given his sizable cushion over Tadej Pogacar but instead attacked the stage and was fastest over the first half.
He faded, almost running wide on a descent late on, but his second place was enough to confirm him in yellow ahead of Sunday’s ride into Paris, his advantage over Pogacar three minutes and 34 seconds.
The longest time trial to feature in a Tour since 2014 did nothing to change the top of the general classification with 2018 champion Geraint Thomas fourth on the day behind Pogacar to confirm his podium place at the age of 36.
That means Vingegaard will be the one clinking champagne glasses on Sunday before an anticipated sprint finish on the Champs-Elysees, with two-time defending champion Pogacar making do with the best young rider’s white jersey.
It is a first overall Tour crown for 25-year-old Vingegaard, coming in an edition that set out from his native Denmark three weeks ago.
“It means everything, it’s really incredible,” he said as he wiped away tears. “It’s the biggest thing within cycling and we did it.
“Since last year I always believed I could do it and now it’s happened. It’s really incredible. It’s both a relief and I’m just so happy and proud.”
Asked about his aggressive approach, Vingegaard pointed to 2020, when team-mate Primoz Roglic saw his advantage in yellow disappear on a stage 20 time trial, allowing Pogacar to take his first title.
“We all were thinking about it,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we were afraid of it but we had it in our heads and didn’t want it to happen again.”
Jumbo-Visma, who have only five riders left, head to Paris boasting the yellow, green and polka dot jerseys. Van Aert cannot be caught in the points classification, while Vingegaard is top of both the general classification and the mountains competition. The team also has six stage wins from 20.
When Pogacar took yellow on stage six into Longwy the 23-year-old seemed set to secure his third consecutive Tour victory in only his third attempt. Thomas spoke of Pogacar potentially dominating for years to come, but this Tour proved things are rarely so simple.
Vingegaard, second to Pogacar a year ago, rode into yellow when Pogacar suffered a crisis on the Col du Granon in the second week, then successfully defended it through the Pyrenees as cycling fans watched the birth of a new rivalry in a Tour that is set to go down as the fastest in history.
While Vingegaard gets the glory, Van Aert has been the man to light things up for his team. This was a third stage win of the Tour for the Belgian, who has taken victory from a breakaway, an uphill sprint and now a time trial, as well as excelling in the mountains to help Vingegaard to victory.
“I’m emotional,” he said. “Winning this Tour de France as a team is really special. The day was like a dream scenario.
“I’m super tired after the three weeks. I gave it all today. I want to win races and today I hoped to take the stage and also to see Jonas secure his yellow. He’s got such a big heart and he’s done that. It’s special.”
Thomas, second in 2019 after his victory the year before, could only manage 41st in the Tour last season but has proven his critics wrong this summer.
“To turn it around from last year, I didn’t know where I would be,” he said. “I knew I could get into good shape again. It’s really satisfying to be on the podium and it’s going to be really special.”
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