‘It was not a great day’ - Inside Visma-Lease a Bike’s disappointing Galibier show

Jonas Vingegaard lost almost 40 seconds to Tadej Pogačar on the first mountain stage of the 2024 Tour de France – where did it all go wrong?

Jonas Vingegaard looked weathered as he crossed the finish line in Valloire on Tuesday afternoon. The Danish rider cannot be criticised for a lack of trying to follow Tadej Pogačar when he made his attack for UAE Team Emirates on the Col du Galibier, but the result of his efforts were not what he would have hoped for. Vingegaard tried to get on the back of the Slovenian rider’s wheel on the steep slopes, but Pogačar’s attack was too hard, too fast and too sudden for the Visma-Lease a Bike man to ever truly get on terms. The result? Vingegaard haemorrhaged almost a minute to his younger rival today on only the fourth stage of the 2024 Tour de France.

Due to his performances in the last two editions of La Grande Boucle, Vingegaard cannot start in this race without a weight of expectation on his shoulders. However, there are real explanations as to why the two-time Tour winner should not reasonably be expected to be on his top form in this year’s edition – he has been recovering from his crash at Itzulia for the majority of the last three months, while Pogačar has been winning the Giro d’Italia. According to Vingegaard’s lead sports director, Grischa Niermann, the impacts of this crash could still have lingering effects on the Danish rider.

“Jonas also did the recon of this descent, but let's not forget that he had a very bad crash three months ago and on a descent also, maybe the last bit of confidence is still not there,” Niermann said after the stage when questioned about Vingegaard losing more time to Pogačar on the downhill finish of stage four. 

“There was also the possibility that Pogačar would attack anyway fully in the descent. I think when Jonas is on this wheel on the top, it's very hard to drop somebody in the descent, but if it's one by one, then it is possible and that's what Pogačar did. Fair enough that they tried because bike racing is also up and downhill, not only uphill, so yeah, that's just like it is.”

Photo: ASO/Billy Ceusters

The lack of collective strength from the entire Visma-Lease a Bike squad on the ascent of the Galibier today was apparent. While Pogačar had his key mountain domestiques by his side setting a pace, Vingegaard found himself isolated on the final slopes. The Dutch team would have hoped for more from their team helpers.

“It was a learning experience. I guess it was not the best for us. We didn't quite have the same numbers as UAE on the Galibier. I just didn't really have the best day. As soon as I started, my saddle felt too high. and whenever that happens, that usually means I don't have super good legs,” Matteo Jorgenson said after the stage – the American rider was visibly disappointed after being dropped earlier on the Galibier.

“I don't think it was great. I lost two and a half minutes or something. I also wasn't there when Jonas needed me. So hopefully it gets better. I don't think the numbers are anything ridiculous. When I was looking at my power meter, I wasn't like, wow, I can't hold this pace, it was within my limits normally, but I just wasn't on that great of a day. I think in general, Jonas probably could have used a harder base just to reduce the explosivity of Pogačar. But in the end, that's just how my legs were,” he continued.

There is one gaping hole in Visma-Lease a Bike’s line-up for this year’s Tour de France: last year’s Vuelta a España winner, Sepp Kuss. The American rider was forced to miss the Tour after he had not fully recovered from catching Covid-19. It’s a big blow for the team who rely on Kuss’ presence in the mountains.

“I think today, we saw that we missed an in-form Sepp Kuss in this race,” Niermann stated. “I think Matteo maybe he expected a bit more himself but in the end he finishes with the group that goes for ninth place so he was up there and there were other guys also getting dropped. And we didn't expect that Matteo would be the last helper when only Jonas and Pogačar are left.”

As the night closes in on the famous Col du Galibier, all that remains is for Visma-Lease a Bike to analyse what went wrong and try to improve things as the Tour de France continues. The events of the day will have an impact on Vingegaard’s confidence, but he points out that, even if others might have expected more, he is exceeding his hopes for the race after the build-up he has had.

“Most of the time I lost today was on the second part of the downhill, not the first, where weight matters a bit more,” Vingegaard said after the stage. “Pogačar has a bit more gravity that works for him and so he took time. I can only accept that.”

In the end, the Danish rider spoke with refreshing optimism despite a stage which can, really, be considered as a loss for his team. We’ve seen the battle between Pogačar and Vingegaard swing from left to right throughout the Tour de France in years gone by, and Visma-Lease a Bike appear acutely aware that conclusions cannot be drawn so soon.

“We expected to be 3-0 behind, so maybe that’s a small victory,” Vingegaard added. “We came here believing we’d lose time in three of the first four stages, so to lose time on just one is pretty good in my opinion. We thought we might lose two minutes or more, so only 50 seconds behind is quite good. Our time will come.”

Cover image: ASO/Charly Lopez

Shop now