Who is Jonas Vingegaard, winner of the 2022 Tour de France?
The winner of the 2022 Tour de France hails from Denmark and has dethroned Tadej Pocagar, but that’s not all there is to him.
Jonas Vingegaard is 25 years old, he has just conquered the biggest stage that cycling offers by beating the clear favorite in Tadej Pogacar, winning two stages and showing strength in all facets of cycling. His season is probably over after this amazing win, but it is impossible not to be interested in both his past and his future.
Danish cycling, a new force to be reckoned with
Something is brewing in the state of Denmark, although hopefully it is not rotten this time around. Soren Kragh Andersen, Mads Pedersen, Magnus Cort Nielsen, Michael Valgren, and now, above all, Jonas Vingegaard. Denmark has no short history of winning cyclists, but nothing like this generation. The Danish government has said that over 90% of its population has a bike, but their territory is also one of the flatest on earth, so any cyclist who wants a complete training has to go abroad, even if Danish authorities still do their best, money wise, to help them improve.
It is not a secret that Denmark has had a problem with doping, just like so many other countries. With two of their greatest cyclists in Bjarne Riis and Michael Rasmussen, winners during the nineties and the aughts, both confessing to doping shortly after retiring, it is hard to not be skeptical. Riis won the Tour in 1996, but he is no longer recognized as the winner by the organization due to him admitting EPO use at the time in a 2007 press conference. Rasmussen won a couple of mountains classifications in 2005 and 2006, but in 2007 he was already banned due to infringing doping laws, before recognising illegal substance abuse for over a decade in 2010.
As some say, “the cycling that changes” has found a new clean winner in Vingegaard, as he is supposed to be far removed from those times and practices. Jakob Fuglsang, now 37, has been the bridge between these two generations of Danish cycling, the doping one and the new one. We will see if things have changed enough not to see any of them giving difficult press conferences in a decade or two.
Vingegaard, from fishes to leading the best team in the world
Jonas Vingegaard is not his country or their policies, as there are two other main reasons behind his success: his abilities and hard work, and the squad he signed for and now commands, Dutch Team Jumbo Visma.
Being a professional cyclist is not an easy goal to achieve, and the path there is not always the same. Vingegaard has a working class past as many others do, and his first races were not the most glamorous ones either. While cleaning fish does certainly not have a lot to do with cycling, having to take part in the Tour of China while riding for a Danish team is not that much better. He placed second at 19 years old, but it still took him a while, and some good results in one-day races, to make some World Tour teams interested.
In 2019 he signed with Team Jumbo Visma as a climbing specialist, and he finished his first grand tour in 2020 as a domestique for Primoz Roglic in the Tour de France. After years of Sky-Ineos dominance in the Tour de France, Jumbo tried to take that role by fielding a team full of strong riders surrounding Primoz Roglic, who came close to winning in 2020 and was one of the favorites to do so in 2021. As Roglic could not fulfill his role, Vingegaard showed his strength as a climber by keeping pace with Pogacar in 2021 and being clearly faster than him in 2022. Pogacar had to battle mainly by himself, but the strength of Vingegaard and a team where Van Aert, Kuss and even Roglic all sacrificed themselves for the Dane were more than enough to procure him his first Tour de France win.
Pogacar and Vingegaard, what’s next
They are just two years apart, as Pogacar is still only 23, so their careers are just starting, and they might not even be at the peak of their powers. There is no doubt that they will clash in the Tour de France for years to come, but it will be interesting to see in which way Vingegaard tries to continue his career. He has the chance to show his abilities as an all-terrain cyclist by fighting for Monuments and short races in spring, as Pogacar does, or focusing on grand tours and mainly the Tour as a way to give his best when it counts the most