On the evening of stage 11 of this year’s Tour de France Jumbo-Visma’s hotel in Saint-Chaffrey in the French Alps, just at the bottom of the fearsome Col du Granon climb, was across the road from a graveyard. They will hope they buried Tadej Pogačar’s Tour hopes there.
It was on the climb earlier in the day that suffering from a depleted team, over exuberance and under-fuelling the Slovenian ace, who had appear impervious to all attacks, cracked wide open as Jumbo piled on the pressure losing nearly three minutes and tumbling to third overall.
Champagne bottles were being popped as the riders and staff returned to the team’s hotel.
But amongst the joy there was restraint. Managing director Richard Plugge wore a big smile underneath his face mask, which he flashed for Danish TV, but his words were cautious. “Pogačar is not here to come second… Tomorrow is another day,” he said. Pogačar will not give it away like this, Ineos will also not give it away like this. There will be a third week and there will be a lot of attacks. There will be a lot of different difficult stages.”
Coach Grischa Niermann was even more succinct when asked what the squad had learned from its previous stints defending the yellow jersey. “That it only counts to have the yellow jersey in Paris and not after stage 11,” he said in reference to Primož Roglič’s heartbreaking penultimate day loss of the Tour lead in the final time trial in 2019.
Vingegaard has only led a WorldTour stage race once, when he briefly held the lead of the Tour of Poland for one stage in 2019.
Rider Nathan Van Hooydonck was a touch more bullish on defending the lead: “I think we have a team that is capable of doing it and is prepared for doing it, so I don’t think we have to worry about it,” he said.
No-one at the team was keen to give details of how they’d seek to do that either by racing aggressively to take more time or simply looking to consolidate Vingegaard’s advantage.
On Wednesday evening though the team did allow themselves to bask in the glory a little. “It was Danish Dynamite,” said Plugge.
When Van Hooydonck was asked if he was at all surprised at how good Vingegaard had been on the final climb he said: “I’ve seen what he’s been doing, the efforts he’s putting in.”
The hallmark of the Jumbo’s triumph was the way it played its strong hand tactically. Sending riders up the road and calling them back when required to help the team’s leaders.
“We started the day and we wanted to have someone in the breakaway, when you tell that to Wout [Van Aert] then he goes!
“Christophe [Laporte] was ready to wait for him on top of the Télégraphe, Wout was ready to wait on top of the Galibier that part of the plan didn't work out, because Pogačar was just too strong. I think you saw the fight on the Galibier, it was a big fight, everybody there was on their limit.
“I think that was the key to the success of Jonas in the end, all those attacks, all that energy was spent and Jonas still had something left. He's at this moment, maybe on a long climb, the best climber.”
Plugge attributed the team performance to its overarching philosophy. “This is team Jumbo-Visma we want to race with a black and yellow heart. We race to win and we dare to do things. We try to do courageous things.”
Gli dico ehi Wout esce del liquido dalla ruota, lui mi fa certo cojone è tubeless. Chiede una pompa, gliela allunga un ragazzo inglese, che gli fa Wout sei una leggenda, lui: “ho qualcosa per te: toglimi la maglia verde, è tua” pic.twitter.com/KwHi2Vegp5July 13, 2022
He added that almost all the team’s staff had been positioned along the race route to hand out bottles to the riders in the searing summer heat.
While all this was happening Vingegaard’s daughter Frida was asleep, according to his partner Trine Hansen who could barely stop smiling at the finish. “She’s usually very happy when he comes on the TV and she says ‘more more!’”
But she would, Hansen said, be very happy to receive the cuddly lion the yellow jersey wearer is given at the end of each stage - part of French bank LCL’s long-running sponsorship of the jersey.
Jonas Vingegaard will hope that his stay in yellow is also long-running, while Pogačar's Tour changes remain buried in the Alps.
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