UAE look forward to taking on Jonas Vingegaard in this year’s Tour de France

Cycling - Tour de France - Stage 9 - Saint-Leonard-De-Noblat to Puy De Dome - France - July 9, 2023 UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogacar and Team Jumbo–Visma's Jonas Vingegaard in action during stage 9 Pool via REUTERS/Papon Bernard

UAE Team Emirates manager Joxean Fernández Matxin believes it is “only right” for double Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard to participate in the race this year. Despite a major crash in the Itzulia Basque Country in April, which left Vingegaard with significant injuries, Matxin stated, “I don’t doubt that even if he had a 10% chance of winning, I’d have done the same.”

The final announcement that both Vingegaard and Wout van Aert will be racing in the Tour was made on Thursday. Vingegaard has not raced since his injury, focusing entirely on his recovery.

Giro d’Italia winner Tadej Pogačar will now face the double Tour de France champion, along with top Belgian racer Van Aert, as he aims to be the first rider to claim both Grand Tours back-to-back since Marco Pantani in 1998.

“It’s only right,” Matxin told Cyclingnews. “He’s a rider who’s won the Tour for the last two years and he’s got to be motivated to try to win the best race in the world again.”

With Vingegaard’s participation, the Tour will be even more thrilling, agreed Matxin. However, he asserted that this development would not alter Pogačar and UAE’s strategy. “We’d already planned things out with our eight riders for the Tour right back at that training camp in December and we already had the idea Jonas Vingegaard would be taking part; he hadn’t crashed at that point. So we haven’t changed our perspective at all.”

Matxin did note that Vingegaard’s lack of race time since April might affect his performance early in the Tour. “It could create a few small doubts in his mind, maybe about how he’s going. We had the same situation last year with Tadej,” he mentioned, referencing Pogačar’s similar struggles after his crash in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The announcement on Thursday also confirmed Van Aert’s participation. Van Aert, a successful Tour racer with victories across various terrains, will join Vingegaard. Initially set for the Giro d’Italia, Van Aert had to change his plans due to injuries sustained in a crash at Dwars door Vlaanderen.

“He’s one of the best riders in the world, what more is there to say about Van Aert?” Matxin commented. “The fact that he couldn’t go to the Giro because of that crash means he’s had to change direction and head for the Tour.”

Matxin highlighted the importance of the Visma-Lease A Bike team as a whole. “The whole team is going to be massively, massively important. They won the three Grand Tours in 2023, how could they be anything but important this year in the Tour?”

Regarding Pogačar and his plans for a Giro-Tour double, Matxin remarked that their focus remains on their own preparations. “We remain focused on what we do, rather than thinking about what our rivals could do. We have to keep very much in mind who they are of course, but we have to work on what we can work on, and that’s our team. And Tadej is concentrating on his work, his training, and on doing things as well as possible to get to the Tour at 120%.”

Main photo credit: Papon Bernard

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