Jonas Vingegaard at a Visma-Lease a Bike training camp.

Vingegaard: Having three big rivals at the Tour will be a ‘fun’ challenge

The defending Tour champ has just gotten his 2024 campaign underway at O Gran Camiño.

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 22.02.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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As Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) gears up for a run at his third straight Tour de France victory, he seems to be relishing the chance to face a handful of rivals – more than just the one Tadej Pogačar who posed a threat in the past two years – as Remco Evenepoel and teammate-turned-rival Primož Roglič will be joining the fray in 2024.

“I think that will make the Tour a lot of fun. In any case, I’m really looking forward to it,” Vingegaard said this week ahead of O Gran Camiño, his first race of the year, as reported by Wielerflits. “It makes the challenge of winning even greater, with three challengers.”

In addition to the possibility that there will be more riders who could potentially challenge Vingegaard, another change he will face at this year’s Tour comes with the lineup of his own squad. Wout van Aert has decided that he will skip the race in 2024, while Vingegaard’s close friend Nathan Van Hooydonck was forced to retire last season due to a heart condition.

In the interview before O Grand Camiño, Vingegaard noted that while “ultimately, the team management decides” who is heading to the Tour, there does appear to be some conversation with Vingegaard as that plan is coming together. He also seemed confident that Visma brass was putting together a solid lineup for the Tour even with Van Aert and Van Hooydonck out of the running.

“I won’t say that the new squad can do exactly the same as the one from the previous two seasons, but this selection can also make a difference and do super, super good work,” Vingegaard said. “We will be strong again in the Tour.”

A good thing; while Vingegaard quietly took the last name of his wife, Trine Hansen, and is now formally known as Jonas Vingegaard Hansen, any Jonas Hansens on the Visma start list aren’t exactly going to sneak up on team’s rivals. (As a housekeeping note, many Danish people are informally called by their first and middle names because last names are so common. Vingegaard’s previous formal name was Jonas Vingegaard Rasmussen – literally “Rasmus’ son” – and so it’s likely he will continue to simply go by Jonas Vingegaard in most situations.)

Jonas Vingegaard racing at O Gran Camiño.
Jonas Vingegaard is the defending champ at O Gran Camiño.

As for his Tour rivals, Vingegaard said that he still sees Pogačar’s UAE team as Visma’s “biggest opponent.”

He also discussed the possibility of aiming for a Giro d’Italia win some time in the future and whether he might aim for the Giro-Tour double, as Pogačar is doing this year. Vingegaard was uncertain of how realistic such a goal might be, and pointed out that he will try a different Grand Tour double first.

“Before I ever want to try that combination myself, I first want to know whether it is possible to reach the same level in a Vuelta after the Tour,” he said. “Maybe I’ll find out this year when we do that combination.” (Someone alert Sepp Kuss, please.)

For now, at least, he is focused on his buildup to the Tour, which got underway on Thursday in Spain’s Galicia region. Vingegaard took three stages and the overall at O Gran Camiño last year, so he has some experience in getting off to a hot start there. The 2.1-rated event is one of several stage races on a 2024 calendar that, as was the case in 2023, leaves little room for one-day races.

Vingegaard noted that, one day, “It would be nice to fight for a win in the Tour of Lombardy and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.” For now, however, he said that “the Tour is still the biggest race in cycling,” and his attempt to defend his title there is just over four months away.

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