Jonas Vingegaard v Tadej Pogacar is the headline act in a golden era for cycling

Jonas Vingegaard (right) and Tadej Pogacar (left)

Jonas Vingegaard (right) rubber-necking to gauge the position of his rival Tadej Pogacar (left) – Velo/Pool

Jonas Vingegaard may have won this year’s Tour de France by an aeon of time – 7min 29sec – but, until last Tuesday’s time trial, the race had lived up to its billing as a battle for the ages between the Dane and Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar.

Following Saturday’s stage win from Pogacar, the UAE Team Emirates rider said he was already looking ahead to next year’s race when he hoped to return stronger and add a third Tour title to his palmarès. The tantalising prospect of Remco Evenepoel, the 2022 world champion, making his Tour debut in 2024, already has cycling fans looking ahead to the grand départ.

But before the hand grenade that is Evenepoel is tossed into the Tour peloton, we must pay tribute to Vingegaard and Pogacar.

On and off the bike, they are two very different personalities. One comes across as a bit of a cold fish – that will be the Dane who used to work in a fish factory until six months before joining Jumbo-Visma in January 2019 – while the other is a social-media savvy Slovenian whose main life goal appears to be having fun on a bike.

Despite his obvious power, Vingegaard rides conservatively, measuring his efforts while often watching over his shoulder. Pogacar is prone to aggressive attacks. The cold efficiency of Vingegaard’s latest Tour victory was hugely impressive – particularly the time trial when he eviscerated the entire field of riders – but it is the energy and panache with which Pogacar has become synonymous that will most likely inspire young children to go race their bikes.

Like with the great rivalries of days gone past – Gino Bartali v Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil v Raymond Poulidor, Eddy Merckx v Luis Ocaña – fans will have their favourites.

Cycling is enjoying a golden era, arguably the greatest time to watch the sport since the 1980s, and the Vingegaard-Pogacar roadshow could turn out to be the headline act for years to come.

Vingegaard buried Pogacar – and may have ended his classics’ dreams

The contrasting personalities of Vingegaard and Pogacar were reflected in their respective race programmes in the countdown to the Tour de France.

Jonas Vingegaard (right) and Tadej Pogacar (left)

Jonas Vingegaard (right) and Tadej Pogacar (left) have contrasting – Getty Images/Jean Catuffe

Vingegaard followed the tried and tested approach of focusing on stage races, winning O Gran Camiño, Itzulia Basque Country and the pre-Tour warm-up Critérium du Dauphiné. Pogacar, meanwhile, spent the spring tackling the one-day classics, winning the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne, while finishing third and fourth at E3 Saxo Classic and Milan-Sanremo respectively. Following a fall at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in late April where he fractured his wrist, Pogacar raced just two more days at the Slovenian national championships prior to the Tour.

For all of the praise heaped upon Pogacar for tackling the classics – not since the days of Bernard Hinault in 1985 had a Tour winner also had a cobbled monument on his palmarès – one has to wonder if it was the wisest decision.

Following last year’s mugging on the col du Granon when he was outnumbered and outsmarted by Jumbo-Visma, and in last week’s dramatic collapse on col de la Loze, Pogacar was unable to respond as Vingegaard turned the screw.

Vingegaard is a pure climber and a supreme time trialist, a rider born to win the biggest race of them all. Having found the winning formula, there is little chance of him deviating from the line he has followed since turning professional in 2019.

If Pogacar is to return next year and challenge his great adversary, he may have to park his dream of winning further monuments for another year or two. What is good for the Tour, though, is not necessarily good for the wider sport. Watching Pogacar tackle the classics has been a breath of fresh air, and shown to younger fans – and older ones who grew up following the exploits of Hinault or Merckx – there is more to cycling than just the Tour.

It would be a great shame if Pogacar were to turn his back on the classics, but understandable. In winning a second Tour, Vingegaard may not have only broken the heart of Pogacar, but of fans of one-day racing too.

Jumbo-Visma’s ‘total cycling’ squad set fair for dynasty

Team Jumbo-Visma - Jonas Vingegaard v Tadej Pogacar is the headline act in a golden era for cycling

Jumbo-Visma, led by Jonas Vingegaard (in yellow), have quietly become a cycling superpower – Velo/Michael Steele

A decade after losing its identity as the Rabobank team – and almost going out of business following the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s report into doping in cycling – the Dutch squad managed by Richard Plugge has quietly become a cycling superpower.

Where once Team Sky – now Ineos Grenadiers – were the squad that rivals looked to enviously thanks, in part, to their apparent unlimited funds and deep pools of talent, Jumbo-Visma are now the standard bearers by which others are measured. With three squads – elite men, elite women and their men’s development team – Jumbo-Visma have all bases covered.

From the spring classics through to the grand tours and mid-winter cyclo-cross races, Jumbo-Visma are able to challenge across all terrain. This Dutch squad may be filled with multi-national riders, but on occasion – particularly in the spring classics – it feels as if the ghost of legendary football coach Rinus Michels is directing from the team car as Jumbo-Visma adopt a ‘total cycling’ approach to racing.

Vingegaard, Primoz Roglic and Wout van Aert may be the headline acts, but the strength in depth the squad has at its disposal is the reason why Jumbo-Visma have just won back-to-back Tour de France titles. Mountain domestiques Sepp Kuss and Wilco Kelderman are worth their weight in gold, while rouleurs Dylan van Baarle or Nathan Van Hooydonck are the engine rooms which fuelled their latest masterpiece.

Thanks to their recruitment policy, the future looks bright for Jumbo-Visma. Since its development squad was founded in 2019, Jumbo-Visma have continually signed some of the brightest talents from the Under-23s, with many progressing to the elite men’s squad.

The addition of Londoner Thomas Gloag to the squad last year appears to have been an inspired acquisition. Still just 21, Gloag completed his first grand tour in May when he was part of the team behind Roglic’s success at the Giro d’Italia.

With their conveyor belt of talent coming through, including the runner-ups at last year’s Tour de l’Avenir – the Tour of the future, commonly referred to as the Under-23 Tour de France – one suspects the succession plan for life after Roglic and Vingegaard is in rude health.

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