There are still several months left for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in Bilbao (July 1 to 24), but everything points to being a duel between UAE and Jumbo again (without losing sight of the Ineos), between Tadej Pogacar and the current defender of the crown, Jonas Vingegaard. Since last summer the Dane defeated the Slovenian in the Tour de France, with the exhibition of the Jumbo and Jonas himself, especially at the Col du Granon, the day that Tadej was seen the most surpassed in his career. The one from the UAE (24 years old, two Tour de France and 55 victories in his record) and the Jumbo (26, one Tour de France and 16) they coincided on two occasions after the last Big Boucle: in the Giro de Lombardia, with victory for Pogacar (Vingegaard, 16th) and in the recent Paris-Nice, in which Tadej swept.
Three stages plus the general with a feeling of overwhelming control. Jonas finished on the podium, in third place, but without options in the face-to-face against his great rival. In theory, it will be their only ‘confrontation’ before seeing themselves in Bilbao with the yellow jersey at stake… but that is still to come. So what should the Jumbo think? There is an important component: Primoz Roglic. While Tadej and Jonas fought on French soil, The former ski jumper opened his 2023 season in Italy, specifically in the Tirreno-Adriatico. His presence was not foreseen, far from it, since in the Jumbo roadmap the plan for the also Slovenian (the country that currently dominates cycling, with just over two million inhabitants) was to do the Volta a Catalunya and the Giro d’Italia, his main objective in this first part of the season.
The preparation at height on Mount Teide left good feelings and, after six months without competing Since he left in La Vuelta 2022, closing a season marked by falls, he returned in an unbeatable way: three victories and overall. That is, just like his compatriot did in ‘The Race to the Sun’, although without the feeling of overwhelming dominance that the one from the UAE showed. The Jumbo announced at the beginning of the season that Roglic would be the team leader for the Giro and Vingegaard for the Tour. What he did not rule out is that Primoz went to the French race, and it is possible that after what was seen in Paris-Nice, this thought is reinforced. Tadej showed that one on one he can be unbeatable, but that a team (as happened in 2022 with Van Aert, Roglic, Vingegaard himself) yes you can beat him. Could at least. For that Jonas has to be well surrounded… and the UAE also learned the lesson of a year ago. The team, which was reduced by COVID in said race a year ago, was reinforced this winter with people like Wellens, Adam Yates, Felix Großschartner… that they are going to cover Tadej to the maximum. Everything will be for him.
Will Vingegaard continue to be the leader of the Jumbo for the Tour? Nothing indicates otherwise. Paris-Nice was only his second race of the season, and in the previous one he won with great self-confidence. He was in O Gran Camiño, and showed an excellent level. Now, against bigger rivals, he suffered, but he himself warns: “I can work on my condition for the Tour. Hopefully we can get better. I still believe that I have not reached my maximum level. I still have work to do.” said the Dane. The preparation of both are different, because an ambitious Pogacar now has one of his great goals of the year in the classicsstarting with Milan-San Remo next Saturday, while Vingegaard will have a smaller calendar, Itzulia being his next appointment.
“Rage and desire” by Pogacar for the Tour
“Sometimes they say that attack is the best defense”, summed up Pogacar about his exhibition in Paris-Nice. There were many ports that he knows well, since he lives in Monaco and they are part of his training, and today it is clear that he is the opponent to beat. A long schedule and the strength of a team against him could be his only weakness. What is clear is that losing the last Tour has not made him change his way of running, at least in the rest of the races. Both in his environment and what the UAE transmits, is that he is eager to recover the crown in Paris, his main challenge. “He is angry and eager,” Matxin told AS during the last Mallorca Challenge. Now he enjoys and the perception from the team is that the popularity of his star rider among the people grew more after ‘falling’ last summer than after rising to the top of Paris the two previous years. The times when the grand tours were almost the only big goal that some stars had are long gone, like dorsal workouts.
The Evenepoel, Vingegaard, Roglic, Pogacar… when they go to a race, it’s to win. The most important of these is the Tour de France, and Pogacar seems to start as a favourite, as it already was in 2022, but precisely that year it was shown that this is a team sport. A trio made up of Roglic, Vingegaard and Van Aert will always be hard to beat. The good? That for the Tour to arrive there is still a world left: the entire season of classics (in which none of these stars will be the only one will be Paris-Roubaix) and races such as Volta a Catalunya, Itzulia… before arriving at the Giro, which will also mark what happens in the Italian round largely Roglic’s season. Everything is very open and the tests are leaving Pogacar as the strongest, but this has practically just begun. We are only in March.