The highest elevation in his homeland is just 173 meters. And yet the Dane Jonas Vingegaard climbs the mountains of the Tour de France like no other. Headwinds in Jutland and a job in a fish factory helped him on his way to the yellow jersey.
When it came to sports, Jonas Vingegaard initially had a hard time. The slight boy from Jutland played football, but he wasn't really happy with it. "I was so small that the others never gave me the ball," says Vingegaard. His journey to the Tour de France yellow jersey finally began one August day in 2007. His father Claus, a salmon farm designer, took ten-year-old Jonas to a stage of the Tour of Denmark a few kilometers from his front door started. And Vingegaard fell in love with cycling straight away.
15 years later, Vingegaard is still slender. The 25-year-old weighs in at around 60 kilograms, and the ribs are visible on his pale upper body. But the quiet man from Thisted is now the best professional cyclist in the world. With six stages to go in the Tour de France, Vingegaard is 2:22 ahead of Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia, who until recently was considered unbeatable.
Before the Pyrenees, where the 16th stage takes place on Tuesday, Vingegaard suffered several setbacks. In Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk, his two best climbers had to give up the race. Then Vingegaard himself fell, but immediately gave the all-clear: "I'm okay. Just a few abrasions." However, Sunday's fall looked so severe that the Dane's appeasements are doubted. But of course he doesn't want to show any weakness, especially not towards the lurking Pogacar.
Vingegaard has always had a bite on the wheel. At home in Jutland, where the highest elevation - the Yding Skovhöj - measures just 173 meters, he got the necessary toughness in the stiff headwind of the west coast. "He started puberty relatively late, not until he was 17. Before that, the people in the club were always afraid that he would be blown away," remembers father Claus. From the age of 15, father and son went to France for a week every year to train in the Alps. Of course, Jonas soon left his senior behind easily.
At 19, Vingegaard got an offer from the small team ColoQuick, which is something of the gold standard of Danish talent. But Vingegaard initially struggled with life as a professional. "He wasn't well organised, didn't have a routine and got up late," reports his team boss at the time, Christian Andersen. Vingegaard was advised to look for a job.
And so it was that the natural talent on the bike worked for two years in a fish factory in Hanstholm. Every day from 6 a.m. to noon, Vingegaard packed the cod in the harbor and then supervised the auction. In the afternoon he went to training with his boss, a good amateur racing driver. Finally, in 2018, Grischa Niermann contacted ColoQuick and was actually interested in another driver. But the sports director of Jumbo-Visma was advised to take a look at this Vingegaard. Since the 2019 season, Vingegaard has slowly been built up until last year, after Roglic's absence, he was unexpectedly promoted to captain and immediately finished second on the tour.
This has already caused a hype in Denmark. So far, this has not been as big as that after Bjarne Riis' tour victory in 1996. But with a triumph in Paris, all dams in the far north should break. Vingegaard, who is very approachable in contrast to Riis, already got a foretaste of this at the start this year in Copenhagen. The TV broadcasts had a market share of up to 78 percent. And when more than 10,000 spectators called his name at the team presentation in Tivoli, it brought tears to his eyes. Now an entire country is hoping for the next tears of joy at the finale on the Parisian Champs-Élysées.