Visma-Lease a Bike defend riding defensively to support Vingegaard with bigger tests ahead

Tadej Pogacar leads Jonas Vingegaard

Visma-Lease a Bike used their combined strength and efficient tactics to maintain their position against Tadej Pogačar and other overall rivals during the gravel stage 9 of the Tour de France near Troyes. The Dutch team, known for their dominance in Grand Tour racing, has opted for a different strategy in 2024: defence over attack. Pogačar remains their biggest threat.

Jonas Vingegaard, after suffering serious injuries in the Itzulia Basque Country crash in early April, has only been training for six weeks. Visma-Lease a Bike’s plan is to limit Vingegaard’s time losses to Pogačar, hoping Vingegaard will peak in the final week of the Tour in the high mountains.

Pogačar’s aggressive approach

After winning the Giro d’Italia, Pogačar is adopting an aggressive strategy, trying to gain time on his GC rivals whenever possible, perhaps before the fatigue of racing two Grand Tours catches up with him. This approach has created an epic battle.

Vingegaard lost 50 seconds on the stage over the Galibier to Valloire and then 25 seconds in the Cote d’Or time trial. Currently, Vingegaard is 1:15 behind Pogačar in the GC standings. Remco Evenepoel sits between them, 33 seconds behind Pogačar, with Primož Roglič fourth at 1:36.

Jonas Vingegaard
Jonas Vingegaard (Photo Credit: ASO – Charly Lopez)

Gravel stage dynamics

On the gravel roads, Pogačar tried to surge away several times. With 77km to go, he joined Evenepoel, with Vingegaard on his wheel. However, the Dane refused to collaborate, and the trio eventually eased up, returning to the GC group.

Pogačar then made a huge effort and double attack on the Daudes gravel sector with 21km to go. Vingegaard struggled and was slightly distanced as Christophe Laporte tried to follow Pogačar, only to blow up. Fortunately, Matteo Jorgenson emerged and dragged Vingegaard up to Pogačar’s wheel. Evenepoel and Roglič were dropped, marking a significant moment in the GC battle. However, Vingegaard and Jorgenson chose not to work with Pogačar, likely following team orders. With Visma-Lease a Bike riders in the group, there was no need to risk going with Pogačar, only to be distanced near the finish.

Team strategy and reactions

“It wasn’t that stressful because we had the strongest team for this stage,” Jorgenson reasoned. “We were on the front of every single gravel sector, and we had confidence that we could get ourselves out of any problem.”

Jorgenson praised his team leader for staying calm after swapping bikes with Jan Tratnik mid-stage and for racing logically all the way to the finish. “He was doing incredible for the situation. He did an incredible job, I’m proud of him,” Jorgenson said. “He was riding with a different position, different bars and a different reach. It was impressive. He’s just so light too; he’s not suited to gravel but he did it.”

Senior directeur sportif Merijn Zeeman also highlighted Jorgenson’s performance. “Matteo did some fantastic work for Jonas, and we’re so happy to have him in the team,” Zeeman said. “When Pogačar attacked, he played for a moment and then closed the gap. That was superb. Pogačar was incredible, and we need the whole team to control him and slow him down.”

Main photo credit: ASO – Billy Ceusters

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