Jonas Vingegaard: His breakout year

Coming second in the Tour de France has propelled the Danish rider to stardom, he explains his off-season, his unusual training methods and his year ahead

“I’m back on the bike already.” After just two and half weeks of rest, Jonas Vingegaard is already conducting early preparations for his 2022 campaign after proving to be one of the breakout riders of 2021.

“I don’t like to take too much time off. If you take four weeks off, you feel so weak in every muscle and probably you’re getting an injury or something. The next few weeks for me are just easy — 10-15 hours a week. And then, we really start training again.”

The diminutive Dane had never stepped foot in London before he arrived to attend Rouleur Live. He wears a Jumbo-Visma sweater and speaks in a relaxed tone as his 14-month old daughter roams the apparently intriguing lobby at Victoria House.

You wouldn’t have been blamed for not knowing Jonas Vingegaard’s name before the 2021 season began. However, in his third season with Jumbo-Visma, the 24-year-old was undoubtedly the breakthrough rider of the year.

Portrait by Véronique Rolland

Vingegaard failed to win a race in 2020, but was in sensational form from the off in 2021. He began the year with victory atop the 21km Jebel Jais climb at the UAE Tour, striking out late to leave Tadej Pogačar and Adam Yates in his wake. That came before overall victory at the UCI 2.1 category Coppi e Bartali and second place overall at the Itzulia Basque Country Tour, only finishing behind his teammate Primož Roglič.

So then, when Vingegaard took over the reins at the Tour de France after Roglič's departure, could he or his team have foreseen his phenomenal rise to finish runner-up in his first Tour?

Related: Jonas Vingegaard – The revelation of this year's Tour de France

“Obviously, I knew I was in good shape, and the team also knew. We talked about it and they said before that I had the numbers in training to finish on the podium," Vingegaard explained. He was racing in only his second Grand Tour after being used as a domestique at the 2020 Vuelta a España. "One thing is training and another thing is racing. I was in good shape, but I never imagined getting second in my first Tour de France, so that was incredible for me, of course.”

Vingegaard went on to discuss his most challenging moments in his Tour de France debut. In a race that included ascents of the revered Mont Ventoux and Col du Tourmalet, he didn’t mention either. “Some of the first days in the Tour de France [were the most difficult]. They were so hectic, so stressful, and it was just something different to any other race.”

Stress seemed to be the key word when describing the opening weekend. “You cannot just relax and sit in the back because you’re going to lose time for sure. It’s just so stressful, so hectic, so many crashes. You just have to be on the front and make sure you’re not crashing. That’s something different to any other race.”

Portrait by Véronique Rolland

His success at the Tour de France may have been largely dependent on Roglič's misfortune — without crashing out, Roglič looked to be Jumbo-Visma's leader. However, it’s clear that Vingegaard has plenty of admiration and respect for Roglič.

When asked which teammate Vingegaard has learnt the most from in his three years with Jumbo Visma, he replied, “I would actually say Primož. He’s a really good captain, and he's taught me a lot. I can also see what he does well and learn from that. So yeah, I learned a lot from him. Of course, there are many good riders that have a lot of experience, so I've learned from every one of them.”

Related: The Breakout Riders of the 2021 Tour de France

Vingegaard’s podium at the Tour didn’t just come about by climbing mountains with the best or avoiding crashes in the stressful opening days. His prowess on the time trial bike is proving to be another vital attribute in his armoury as a leading GC rider — he came third in both time trials at the Tour de France. Many riders of Vingegaard’s compact stature shed time on the time trial bike, but for the Dane, who weighs in at just 60kg, it’s a real strength. He provided insight into how he balances training on the road and time trial bike.

“Actually, I don’t do a lot of training on the time trial bike; I do a lot of stretching. For me, that’s working pretty good, as it means I’m flexible enough to be in the position I have to be in and be as aero as possible”. He then added, “If you want to be good at time trialling, you also have to be good on the longer climbs, so it fits pretty much together actually.”

Related: Tadej Pogacar – from Slovenian village unicyclist to Tour de France Champion

After such a phenomenal 2021 campaign, Jonas is already thinking ahead to 2022. “I’m thinking mostly of the Tour de France next year. It’s not sure that I’m going there, we still have to talk about that [as a team]. But I really hope to go there. It’s also starting in my home country, so that would be really special.”

Although nothing can be confirmed at this stage, Vingegaard intentions are clear. He wants to return to the Tour de France, where he’ll be given the unique opportunity of riding the biggest race in the world in his homeland.

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