• Country

Visma–Lease a Bike Announce Tour de France Team with Vingegaard and van Aert

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

The suspense is finally over and, as half-expected, two-time and defending yellow jersey winner Jonas Vingegaard will be riding in this year’s Tour de France, alongside his top two support riders, Wout van Aert and Sepp Kuss.

In a statement posted on its website, the Dutch team said that the 27-year-old Dane had sufficiently recovered from the devastating injuries he suffered at the Itzulia Basque Country in early April “to fight for a good result.” This follows recent statements by Visma sports director Merijn Zeeman on the sports talk show Cycloo Wielercafé, where he said that Vingegaard didn’t have to be in winning form to start the Tour, but should be “competitive.”

The statement quotes Vingegaard as saying, “I am excited to start the Tour. The last few months have not always been easy, but I thank my family and Team Visma | Lease a Bike for their unwavering support. We have worked together to get to this moment, and of course, I am very excited to see where I stand. I feel good and very motivated.”

His saying that he was “excited to see where I stand” suggests that he is not quite certain of his form, though it is doubtful that he would agree to ride in such a grueling race – this year’s Tour has been described as one of the most difficult ever – if he were not confident of performing well. Nevertheless, it’s a remarkable recovery for Vingegaard, who was treated in hospital for 12 days after suffering a broken collarbone, several fractured ribs and a punctured lung.

The team is also lowering expectations, with Zeeman saying, “Of course, we don’t know how far he can go yet. We are being cautious because he has not been able to race, and his preparation has been less than ideal, to say the least. But he will be there, healthy and motivated.”

Jonas Vingegaard
Jonas Vingegaard will be riding in this year’s Tour de France. © Profimedia

In addition to former Škoda Green Jersey winner van Aert and last year’s Vuelta a España champion Kuss, Visma’s Tour team is loaded with experienced riders and strong climbers. Rounding out the squad are Tiesj Benoot, Wilco Kelderman, Jan Tratnik, Christophe Laporte and the talented 24-year-old American Matteo Jorgenson, who most recently finished a close second to Tour de France rival Primož Roglič (BORA-hansgrohe) in the Critérium du Dauphiné .

Many of the riders in the squad are coming off injuries. Van Aert crashed out in the Dwars door Vlaanderen at the end of March; Laporte suffered a series of injuries and an illness that affected his form; and Kelderman broke his collarbone in Paris-Nice. This year has been one to forget for the team in terms of time lost to injury, with Dylan van Baarle and Steven Kruijswijk, who had been slated to support Vingegaard, missing the Tour due to injuries sustained in crashes in the Dauphiné. But if everyone else has come good, this should be a very competitive team.

That is due in no small measure to the presence of van Aert, who has won nine Tour stages and was a key rider in both of Vingegaard’s victories. He had originally not been tabbed to ride in the Tour, so he could focus on the Paris Olympics. But the Dwars door Vlaanderen crash altered his plans.

“I am really looking forward to the Tour de France,” he says on the team’s statement. “Of course, this was not the plan initially, but after my development in the last weeks, I really wanted it, and the team agreed. Our main goal is, of course, to ride a top classification with Jonas. I want to contribute to that.”

Win or lose, all the riders will look sharp in the team’s new dark-blue Tour de France kit, which pays homage to the Renaissance and the Italian city hosting the Grand Départ on June 29, Florence.