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Road to the Tour: Vingegaard Still Iffy, But Remco Will Be Ready

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

You can tell that Tadej Pogačar is very confident about winning the Giro d’Italia – because he’s already thinking about winning the Tour de France. In comments to journalists after Sunday’s ninth stage, the UAE Team Emirates leader said the French race was already “in the back of my mind,” and then spoke about the rider who beat him in the last two Tours and is currently recovering from a horrific crash, Jonas Vingegaard,

“I was really happy to see him on the bike and that he shared some news on [social] media,” Pogačar said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him at the Tour. I think he’s going to be there, and I think he’s going to be in good shape. I wish him the best recovery and that he can push on the pedals faster and go [training] at altitude. I think we will see him at the Tour in really good shape.”

All cycling fans hope that he’s right and that the 27-year-old Dane will be at his best when the Tour kicks off on June 29. The people who should know Vingegaard’s current condition and how well he is recovering from the broken collarbone, fractured ribs, and punctured lung he suffered on April 4 in the Itzulia Basque Country, his coach and his boss at Visma–Lease a Bike, are cautiously optimistic – with the emphasis on cautiously.

“Jonas is currently doing light endurance training,” his coach, Tim Heemskerk told BT. “We have to realise that he lost his form because of his hospitalisation, which meant that he did almost nothing for three weeks… However, we also know that he will respond quickly to his training. But that doesn’t mean that I know whether he will be ready in time for the Tour.”

Heemskerk went on to say that Vingegaard was riding at a modest pace of about 35 kph and was lengthening his time on the road every day, if he felt no discomfort.

“He has a physiotherapist in Denmark, and he has a nutritionist who has started working with him,” Heemskerk said. “So we are doing everything we can every single day. Without pushing too hard.”

Visma–Lease a Bike Managing Director Richard Plugge was more cautious. He told Relevo that Vingegaard would not defend his Tour title “if he’s not 100%. That is something we are not going to go through.”

He went on to say: “After a fall like the one he suffered, we have to be cautious and go day by day with his recovery. Right now, he just got on the bike. We have to wait a couple of days to see where he really is physically.”

This has been a terrible year for Visma, with the injuries to Vingegaard and to the team’s other superstar, Wout van Aert, who crashed a week before his teammate did and suffered less serious injuries. Before his crash, van Aert had planned to ride in the Giro. Plugge suggested that he might ride in the Tour, with or without Vingegaard.

Wout van Aert
Van Aert is recovering from a fractured collarbone and several ribs. © Profimedia

“Wout has the advantage that he is a little ahead [of Vingegaard] in recovery, so physically, we believe that he could be [in the Tour],” he said. “But again, we have to wait. We haven’t sat down with him yet to talk about his schedule after the fall. We have to see if he sees himself in the Tour de France or not, and analyse all possible scenarios before deciding.”

Meanwhile, Visma’s run of bad luck continued in the Giro with their sprinter Olav Kooij, who had won stage 9, and their 21-year-old GC rider Cian Uijtdebroeks both dropping out of the race due to illness.

But there is another superstar who crashed in the Itzulia Basque Country, and on the same curve as Vingegaard, who cycling fans are very eager to see ride against Pogačar in the Tour de France – Remco Evenepoel. According to his boss at Soudal – Quick Step, Patrick Lefevere, his star rider’s recovery is progressing so well that he should be ready to ride a prep race at the Critérium du Dauphiné, which starts on June 2.

“Not that we ever really doubted it but Remco Evenepoel will be ready for the Tour,” Lefevere said in his Het Nieuwsblad column. “During his fall in the Tour of the Basque Country, he broke his collarbone and his shoulder blade. The latter currently causes stiffness in the time trial position but that is a matter of days [before it is healed].”

The outspoken Soudal boss was optimistic that Evenepoel would be at his best even before the Tour. “There will be an individual time trial of 34 kilometres in the Dauphiné on June 5,” he said. “There is no reason to think that Remco could not reach his best level there.”

The fourth member of the Big Four who was scheduled to compete at this year’s Tour for the first time, Primož Roglič (BORA-hansgrohe), also crashed at the Itzulia but managed to limp away and has been training well. And he should also be at his best for the Dauphiné.

So there is a chance that Christmas will come early this year and we will have our Tour of Dreams after all.