After what was on the whole a tightly contested Tour De France, the Dane, Jonas Vingegaard took quite a comfortable victory in Paris - but it took him two weeks to make his crucial move.
After a grueling 3405 kilometers across five mountain ranges, Vingegaard started to take control by Stage 6, and always stayed within an arm’s reach of rival Pogacar, so much so he has earned the nickname “Vingeglue” by some in the cycling community - he expertly kept the range to his White Jersey-wearing competitor, and with the help of his Jumbo-Visma teammates maintained the edge throughout.
It may seem like a long time ago now; a time when Jonas Vingegaard didn’t have the yellow jersey seems too far long gone. But there were two other yellow jersey bearers at this year’s Tour.
Adam Yates’ stage 1 victory gave him the prestige of being a yellow jersey bearer, and he held his own until Jai Hindley, last year’s Giro D’Italia winner, took over the honor after victory on stage 5, to the joy of many.
But it would ultimately last just one day, as it would land on Vingegaard’s back after stage 6 - even with a Pogacar victory 24 seconds ahead of Vingegaard.
Was Pogacar fully fit? He won the Tour in 2020 and 2021, but many were casting off his chances in 2023 due to him breaking his wrist just a few months before the start in Spain, and it was not fully healed before stage 1 kicked off. However, you wouldn’t have known, after his surge to win stage 6.
Pogacar continued to knock off just mere seconds from Vingegaard’s lead. On stage 9 he gained back eight seconds - this tight time gap would stay close until stage 13 when Pogacar clawed another eight seconds off.
In both of these gains, he showed his more explosive nature to have some personal victories over Vingegaard. He was showing no signs of injury fatigue - for now. The race was poised to be the closest in years.
Only 10 seconds separated the pair after 15 stages, but Vingegaard took total control of the race when it entered the Alps in the final week.
The race was close, the tension was gripping, the riders and teams tight-lipped, and the time trial on stage 16 was poised to be a potential crown decider - or at least give the teams more to think about for the final stages. After a quite remarkable performance in his own right, things started well for Pogacar.
Setting off on the time trial, Pogacar was faster than the rest of the field by over a minute - the commentators were getting pumped, the graphics team was putting up exciting time-split stats on the screen, and then Vingegaard set off two minutes later.
Vingegaard rode on the edge, flying down the starting ramp in anger and taking the first corner, where earlier riders had crashed, at a ridiculous tilt, he took great lines through corners, and in the shot-by-shot comparisons with Pogacar, he truly looked like he was on a different speed level - despite riding on a heavier time trial bike.
By the end, he gained almost 1min38secs on Pogacar and could see the white shirt just seconds ahead on his final straight amongst the motorbikes and team cars.
It was the first time on this Tour that one of the top two took a major amount of time from the other, as Vingegaard firmly asserted himself as the one to beat over the remaining five stages.
The following day, on Stage 17, Pogacar, by his remarkable standards, crumbled, infamously telling his team, “I’m dead.” He finished 7mins37secs behind Vingegaard. The stage was won by Austrian Felix Gall who put in a great performance to win on the Flamme Rouge.
On Saturday's 20th and penultimate stage, Pogacar beat Vingegaard in an uphill sprint to win the stage — a final prize, but only a consolation with the procession to Paris a near formality.
Vingegaard and Pogacar have combined to win the last four Tours, and neither has yet reached the age when cyclists typically peak.
Vingegaard now has his eyes set on the Vuelta a Espana, but skips out on the UCI world championships next month.
In the sprint contest, Jasper Philipsen took the green jersey after winning stages 3 and 4 taking it away from Victor Lafay who was a surprise winner on stage 2 that ended Cofidis’ long wait for a stage win, and he held on to this with a strong grip until the Champs-Élysées.
Philipsen won four stages in total, one of them tightly ahead of Mark Cavendish on the seventh stage preventing the legendary sprinter from breaking the record for Tour De France stage wins.
Neilson Powless’ earlier performances earned him the Polka Dot King of The Mountains Jersey until stage 14 when it was shared with Vingegaard. After stage 15, however, Ciccone wrestled this away and impressed on the climbs on his way to Paris to cement his place as King of the Mountains - despite not winning any stage outright.
General Classification Standings (Yellow Jersey)
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma): 67:57:51
2. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates): +7:35
3. Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates): +10:45
4. Carlos Rodríguez (INEOS Grenadiers): +12:01
5. Simon Yates (Jayco–AlUla): +12:19
6. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious): +13:27s
7. Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe): +14:44
8. Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroen): +16:09
9. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ): +23:08
10. Guillaume Martin (Cofidis): +26:30
Points Classification Leader (Green Jersey)
Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck): 323 points
Mountain Classification Leader (Polka Dot Jersey)
Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek): 88 points
Best Young Rider Classification Leader (White Jersey)
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates): 68:05:26 (+4:26)