In three weeks, the 110th Tour de France begins in Bilbao. In six weeks time, Jonas Vingegaard hopes to win his second yellow jersey. To that end, it appears rather helpful that the Jumbo-Visma rider won the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday by the largest winning margin in 30 years.
Through a combination of an impressive time trial on stage four, and then stage wins on Thursday and Saturday, plus a bonus few seconds gained on the final stage, Vingegaard won the Dauphiné by 2-23 over Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates).
The French race, traditionally a crucial warm-up for the Tour, does not always mean triumph in July at its bigger brother; only 10 riders have won both races in the same year over its 75 editions. However, Vingegaard's performance over eight days in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region will surely give his rivals more than a little pause for thought.
It was the biggest winning margin between the Dauphiné winner and the runner up since Laurent Dufaux beat Oliverio Rincón by three minutes in 1993, and Vingegaard looked good in every aspect of the race.
“I can be very happy with this week," Vingegaard said post-final stage. "I'm in good shape and the team rode great too. I am a bit surprised that the differences in the standings are so big, but I know that I am in good shape at the moment.”
Yates, and the Australian trio of Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën), Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious) proved no match for the Dane, while the Ineos Grenadiers trident of Carlos Rodríguez, Egan Bernal and Dani Martínez finished ninth, 12th, and 23rd respectively. The Dauphiné might not have every GC contender that will appear in Bilbao, but it was quite a statement.
"It s very very big for me to win this race. It's one of biggest races in the world, so I'm very happy to win," Vingegaard said. “I'm going to relax for a few days now and then get ready for the Tour. I still have some work to do, but not much more."
Last year, the Jumbo-Visma rider came into the Tour in similar form after the Dauphiné, a race he finished second in then after winning the final stage, and after a slightly mixed start to the year - dominant victories at O Gran Camiño and Itzulia Basque Country, but third place at Paris-Nice - this week's result has put him in a good place.
However, it is the man who soundly beat him at Paris-Nice who is still an unknown, who will be the biggest rival for Vingegaard across the Tour de France: Tadej Pogačar.
The Slovenian has not raced since crashing out of Liège-Bastogne-Liège back in April, and will pin on numbers just twice more before Bilbao, but is still the man regarded as the best rider in the world, the man who has the ability to beat Vingegaard.
It is shaping up to be a titanic battle for a second year in a row, if Pogačar can match the form of Vingegaard in three weeks time. Roll on the Tour de France.
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