Jonas Vingegaard named top contender for Tour de France by UAE Team Manager

Tadej-Pogacar-2024-Giro-dItalia-trophy

With his first Giro d’Italia victory just a week behind him, Tadej Pogačar now sets his sights on a third Tour de France win. However, UAE Team Emirates team manager Joxean Matxin has identified rival Jonas Vingegaard as the frontrunner for the Yellow Jersey in July.

The Danish two-time Tour winner is on the mend following a serious crash at the Tour of the Basque Country in April, which left him with a lung injury and multiple broken bones. Matxin reflected on the 2023 season, noting that Pogačar himself had faced a severe crash in the spring, breaking his wrist at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. “That Vingegaard crashed heavily in the Tour of the Basque Country? Last year, Tadej crashed 3 weeks further in April and was in Vingegaard’s slipstream until the Tour time trial (stage 16),” Matxin told Sporza.

Altitude Training

Matxin was quick to highlight Vingegaard’s preparation for the Tour. “Vingegaard has been training at altitude for weeks, he is the big favourite,” he noted. Meanwhile, Pogačar is resting before heading to an altitude camp in the French Alps to fine-tune his form. Vingegaard’s coach, Tim Heemskerk, told the Radio Cycling podcast that their approach to the reigning Tour de France champion’s recovery is flexible: “The plan for the next four weeks is decided on a day-by-day process. What he’s doing today will make tomorrow’s training. If I see he’s improving, he can do a bit more tomorrow, respecting the recovery of course. We are not forcing anything.”

The Spaniard seemed keen to take the pressure off Pogačar during his historic Giro-Tour double attempt, pointing out the energy the Slovenian expended during his triumph in Italy. “Of course Tadej was also tired after the Giro…Tadej has had days when he burned 8,000 calories, his wattages were also very high.” Pogačar won the Giro by almost ten minutes ahead of Bora-Hansgrohe’s Daniel Martinez. Matxin assured that tactically the aim in Italy was to race as “economically” as possible with one eye on July. “He didn’t pull off an 80km solo like he did in Strade Bianche. And Tadej never had to fight for his position in the peloton thanks to the perfect work of his teammates,” he said.

Other Contenders

Vingegaard is the opponent that UAE Team Emirates appear most concerned about, but Matxin also named Remco Evenepoel, Primoz Roglic and Alexandr Vlasov as leading favourites for the Tour de France. All three are set to compete in the Critérium du Dauphiné as preparation for the Tour, with Evenepoel and Roglic on their own comeback trails after falling victim to the same crash as Vingegaard in April.

If Pogačar were to win the Tour de France in seven weeks’ time, he would become the first rider to complete the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998. The World Championships in Switzerland later on in the season is another big ambition for Pogačar. However, Matxin denied the possibility of an unprecedented Grand Tour treble. “Winning the three Grand Tours in the same year is great for the history books, but that is not the case this year…the Vuelta was never on Pogačar’s schedule.”

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