On the day Jonas Vingegaard came of age with a stunning performance on the Col du Portet, Tour de France winner-in-waiting Tadej Pogačar has backed his rival to win the race in the coming years.
Little-known to the outer cycling world before this Tour and beginning as a domestique to Jumbo-Visma's leader Primož Roglič, Vingegaard has taken advantage of Roglič's absence and looks set to finish second overall.
The 24-year-old, whose only previous Grand Tour was the 2020 Vuelta a España, finished second behind Pogačar on stage 17 and he has been backed by the Slovenian to win the Tour in the coming years.
"He is racing fantastic," Pogačar said of his rival. "After all the bad luck Jumbo-Visma had, Jonas has come out and he has really showed his character.
"He will fight for sure in the Tour and he will be even better than he is now. For sure he can be a Tour de France winner pretty soon. I like racing against him - he is a super good guy."
Vingegaard is enjoying a breakthrough season, first winning the Queen stage of the UAE Tour, then two stages and the overall at the Coppi e Bartali, followed by riding to second overall behind Roglič at the Tour of the Basque Country.
His teammate Mike Teunissen admitted to Cycling Weekly that the Dane's performances in the Tour weren't what his team had expected.
"He has been riding very surprisingly at this Tour, but he did something similar before on the Ventoux stage," Teunissen said.
"Today is just the confirmation of his talent so in that way it's not a surprise.
"Now he has a chance to go for himself and with the support of the guys because otherwise he would be supporting Primož so it's helped him.
"He is going really, really well and it would be a really great podium in this Tour."
Asked if Vingegaard's attacking instincts on the Col du Portet were reflective of his character, Teunissen confirmed, but cautioned that the young rider still has a lot to learn.
"I think sometimes we need to calm him down," he said. "The whole team didn't know how he would be throughout the three weeks; maybe he has a bad day.
"But it looks good and he doesn't need to desperately attack. But of course if he can take time or win a stage, he needs to go for it. If something is up for grabs, he will go for it. That's his character on the bike."
Vingegaard's performances look set to give his team their second successive runner-up spot in the race, a fine result given how poorly their race started and the fact that they're now only riding with four riders. They have also won two stages.
"If you look at it up front, our goal was to win the Tour and that didn't happen," Teunissen said. "So if you look at it this way, we have failed.
"But if you take the stages, and maybe we win more, and Jonas in second, another second with a different guy, you can't say it's been a bad Tour. It's been a good plan B."
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