Jonas Vingaard thundered in the last serious test of the Tour de France to increase his lead in the general classification on Saturday and almost guarantee victory in cycling’s greatest race.
After three exhausting weeks of racing, the leader of Jumbo-Visma drew on his reserves to deliver another impressive performance in a long time trial in the south of France.
“That means everything, it’s really amazing,” Vingaard said. “It’s the most important thing in cycling and we did it.”
Vingeaard, who is not a pure specialist in the race against the clock, could have played it safe given his more than three minute lead at the start. However, he took all the risks on the technical course and scared himself as he approached the finish when he misjudged a turn and had to brake hard to avoid a crash.
Vingeard then slowed down dramatically as he approached the finish line. He finished Stage 20 in second place 19 seconds behind winner Wout van Aert, a key teammate.
Vingeard and Van Aert hugged warmly at the finish and the Danish rider was emotional after being greeted by his wife and daughter after the stage.
“Having my two daughters at the finish line means even more to me,” said Vingaard, who improved on his second-place finish last year.
“Since last year I always believed I could do it and now it’s happened. It’s really amazing. It’s both a relief and I’m so happy and proud.
Van Aert, a versatile competitor with multiple titles and victories in the sport’s most prestigious events, played a crucial role in Vingaard’s pace through the mountain stages. His third stage win this month was his ninth overall.
Van Aert, who also won the green jersey for best sprinter, has proven he can win on all surfaces and could be a leader in his own right on any team. He has so far turned away from mounting a challenge for the yellow jersey in the future.
“That’s been the question the last few days, I think,” Van Aert said. “I answered a thousand times. Right now it’s just an incredible feeling to win this Tour with the team and win three stages and the green jersey. At the moment, I don’t want to talk about the future.“
Van Aert crossed the finish line with a blistering average speed of 31.6 mph. The 25.9-mile stage from Lacapelle-Marival to Rocamadour was the longest individual time trial since 2014.
While the last day of racing on Sunday generally passes without incident until the last sprint on the Champs-Elysées, Vingaard will become the first Danish rider to win the Tour since 1996, barring a crash or last-minute incident.
The time trial marked the final hurdle of an epic race that featured a thrilling duel between Vingaard and two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar.
Vingeard built its success in the mountains. He first took the yellow jersey from Pogacar in the Alps with a memorable ascent of the Col du Granon, and followed this week with an impressive show of force during the last Pyrenean stage to the resort of Hautacam.
Given Vingaard’s good time advantage, it was unlikely that Pogacar could challenge the Danish rider’s supremacy in the time trial. Pogacar took third place, 27 seconds behind Van Aert.
“The battle between me and Jonas for the yellow jersey was very special,” said Pogacar. “We have two or three very interesting years ahead of us. Jonas has stepped up his game this year.“
Vingeard will maintain a 3 minute 34 second lead over Pogacar on the final day, a 72.1 mile trip to Paris. Geraint Thomas, the 2018 Tour champion, fell more than eight minutes off the pace in third place.