Jumbo-Visma boss: 'The Tour de France isn't over until Tadej Pogačar is on the bus home'

Jonas Vingegaard and his team remain wary of the threat posed by Pogačar, despite their significant lead

Tadej Pogačar shadowed by Jonas Vinegaard on stage 15 of the Tour de France
(Image credit: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

The great man theory is a view of the past which suggests that history was shaped by the respective geniuses of the age - Da Vinci, Shakespeare or Napoleon, for example - rather than from below.  

It is an archaic way of thinking, destined for the dustier, more conservative tomes in the library, but its appeal continues to last, just think of all the column inches spent on Churchill. 

This Tour de France has very much been one for the great men. Just two, actually, with Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) dominating the race, and practically all of the action. The masses have not had much of a look in, with even stage winner Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious) only getting a couple of seconds on television on stage 15, as the action cut back to the GC battle.

That battle was looking like one for the ages. That was, until Tuesday's stage 16, when the tension was deflated by a time trial where Vingegaard took 1-38 on his rival, increasing his lead to 1-48. A race of truth uncovered not just a gap but a crevasse between the pair.

However, Vingegaard's Jumbo-Visma team are not relaxing just yet, with the other great man in the race now wounded, and surely set to attack, attack, and attack in a desperate bid to win the race.

"Pogačar is like the Germans as we say in Holland, with football, you have only beaten them when they are in the bus back home," Jumbo-Visma's boss Richard Plugge said on Tuesday. "We are only celebrating when he [Vingegaard] is in Paris in the bus and he's [Pogačar's] back to Ljubljana, and then we are sure.

"He will fight back and that makes him one of the nicest competitors. This generation, they keep fighting and we are prepared to fight obviously." 

Jumbo-Visma's staff seemed shocked at the time that Vingegaard put into Pogačar, not because their rider had exceeded expectations, but because to them, Pogačar had underdelivered. Having experienced a masterclass from the Slovenian star in a hilly time trial before - at the 2020 Tour, that unseated Primož Roglič from the race lead - they were prepared for another.

"I'm surprised not by Jonas because we expected more or less a big result like this in time but we did not expect such a big advantage compared to Pogačar because this is what he can do, this is his specialty," Plugge said.

This was echoed by directeur sportif Grischa Niermann, who was following his charge during the race.

"This was Jonas' best time trial ever," the German said. "We knew what he was capable of, we knew that this time trial would suit him, but I expected that this time trial would suit Tadej at least as much.

"We saw immediately that he was going really hard and really well, but we also discussed that he had to hold back something for the last climb, and even for the last flat part. He knew what he was doing."

For Plugge, the fact he was last out on the course after Pogačar seemed to give him something to chase, something extra to push him.

"He was very much motivated, as if he had the feeling, I'm second and I need to fight back to him, I need to catch him," he said. "And that really made him strong. He almost caught him literally, so that was really good."

The race feels like it might be over, but it very much is not, with the Alpine queen stage still to come on Wednesday, and another mountainous day on Saturday in the Vosges. Pogačar and UAE Team Emirates have to go on the offensive.

“I think they’ll attack but it’s such a hard climb, you also have to save something. You can’t go too crazy,” Vingegaard's teammate Sepp Kuss said post-stage 16. “Jonas knows himself really well and if he feels good, he’s not afraid to go for it either.”

The Col de la Loze, the final test on Wednesday, is a fearsome climb. 28.1km at 6% would be enough for most, but the finial kilometres have ramps of 24%, where just a few metres of distance between riders will mean time differences.

"Tadej will attack again but it's such a hard stage the legs will decide," Jumbo DS Arthur van Dongen said. "We have a good plan, a good team with this advantage, and the yellow jersey and now the stage win. We are looking forward to it."

The 2023 Tour de France remains one for the great men, but by the end of stage 16, there might be one who can comprehensively claim to be claiming the history of this race. Vingegaard and Jumbo-Visma are ready.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.