Tears, crowds, and Seven Nation Army: The Tour de France has landed in Copenhagen

We doubt Jonas Vingegaard is going to forget his reception in a hurry

Tour de France presentation
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It would be easy to simply snark at the Tour de France team presentation. Watching from home it must look like a stupid, rambling unnecessary adornment to three weeks of thrilling racing.

However, in person it was different. To see the emotion on Jonas Vingegaard's face as the huge Danish crowd chanted "Vin-ge-gaard! Vin-ge-gaard!" made it all real, made one realise how big cycling is in Denmark. Most of the riders looked like they were actually having fun, remarkably.

This was not a usual team presentation, barely attended and hidden away. The riders were shown to a crowd of thousands at Tivoli Gardens, the third-oldest theme park in the world, in the centre of Copenhagen. 

Even half an hour before teams started rolling onto the stage, the area in front of the main stage was packed, people waiting expectantly to see a glimpse of their heroes. To prove how seriously it was being taken, at one point your correspondent was shushed by a cycling-mad fan, keen to hear the banalities that the riders were spouting.

It was as easy to get laughs as a rider at the team presentation as a best man doing a bang average speech to inebriated guests at a wedding, but don't let that affect your impression of the sheer adulation that was emanating from the crowd towards the athletes on stage. These guys are worshipped here, especially the Danes.

The weather helped, the thousands of Danes being bathed in warm June sun; it is not worth thinking about what would have happened if it was belting down with rain. It wasn't though, so everything is fine.

The two hosts Stine Bjerre Mortensen and Dennis Ritter, both sports journalists, were greeted with a roar, and then the conveyor belt of teams and their cyclists started. Most were hurried through, with some teams deciding to say nothing at all - we see you Movistar - while others, the ones with Scandinavian riders especially, were forced to stop and entertain the crowd.

Tour de France presentation

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It did not seem boring or forced though, although it might have been different for those watching along at home, but this was a celebration rather than a formality. Amid the rollercoasters and dodgems of the theme park, there was a lot of excitement for cycling. Sadly we did not get a chance to see Primož Roglič on 'The Astronomer', but there is still time

Each team span their legs round a 1.5km route around central Copenhagen before heading into Tivoli, guided by a local cycling club. This gave them a chance to see a bit of the Danish capital before being ushered on stage, although it is unlikely this will help them prepare for the time trial.

The crowd went mad for Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo, one of the favourites for the green jersey; the former world champion basked in the cheers of the crowd, as he was the first home hero to enter the spotlight.

When Israel-Premier Tech rolled on stage, a chant of "Fuga! Fuga! Fuga!" went around, and it was clear that Jakob Fuglsang is a popular man here. The crowd were almost as excited to hear from four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, who charmed the crowd.

"I've been to ten Grand Départs and I've never felt the energy quite like this one," the 37-year-old said, winning hearts and minds for him and his team.

It was true though, the energy felt magnificent in the arena. Sure, it might not have been David Bowie at Glastonbury in 2000, or Queen at Live Aid, but it was as close as cycling is going to get. Even Danish pop sensation Lukas Graham was welcomed by the crowd for a brief interlude, although it didn't feel necessary.

The Danish fans were busy entertaining themselves by singing Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes at any give opportunity. This was less "oh, Jeremy Corbyn" and more "daaaa da da da da daaaa daaaa", but that didn't matter.

Tour de France presentation

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The high point came at the business end of the team presentation, when the two teams with the favourites for the Tour emerged, first Jumbo-Visma and then UAE Team Emirates.

This brings us back to Jonas Vingegaard. He is a popular man here, the rider who finished second at last year's race clearly the crowd's favourite for the overall title. He was overcome with emotion as his name was chanted, seemingly unable to comprehend the amount of love shown towards him. This continued for some time, with the 25-year-old waiting to say anything, with tears in his eyes.

His teammate Roglič, one of the top favourites for the race, was handed a hospital pass of a question by the presenter: who out of himself and Vingegaard was the true leader of Jumbo? The Slovenian dealt with the question with customary grace and tact, saying it was the Dane's race. It might have been a joke, an escape from a difficult question in front of a biased crowd, but it might prove to be true.

Then Tadej Pogačar came on stage, his Danish teammate Mikkel Bjerg was quizzed about being the two-time Tour winner's friend, and the whole thing was over, with more music from Lukas Graham. 

The event left an impression, and Denmark might be about to succeed Yorkshire as the biggest Grand Départ the Tour has done. On Wednesday's evidence, its foray out of France, out of L'Hexagone, has already been a success.

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