“I’m gone, I’m dead,” Tadej Pogačar shouted over the radio on Wednesday during the final ascent of the royal stage. By then it was clear that Jonas Vingaard had won the 2023 Tour de France. He won four stages before the finish line.
Except in absolutely exceptional circumstances, the 26-year-old Dane can no longer lose. Only a sudden fall, injury or illness could stop him. Very unlikely, but never out of the question.
Jonas Vingaard is a special winner with an unusual cycling background. That’s not really what a great champion cyclist looks like.
Quiet, discreet, introverted in appearance, extraordinarily ordinary. On the other hand, with fantastic physical prerequisites. At 17, they measured his VO2max – 97! This number may be much higher today. Not yet available.
The Dane also has a very strong psyche. He drives and seems exceptionally focused. As if nothing could distract him from the concept. He’s so focused he looks boring. No jokes like Peter Sagan or Tadej Pogačar. Never, never really.
Nothing at the start of his cycling career was standard. And the first tours in the north of the Jutland peninsula also did not promise a great career.
It is an exposed, windswept and unforgiving landscape. Once serving as bases for Viking raids on Europe in the 9th and 10th centuries, the ports of Thy County are surrounded by vast plains with no hills or hills.
A bit lazy?
Perhaps the upwind world champion could be from here, but it’s hard to imagine the best climber in world cycling will be born here.
They say the cold and windy weather may have caused Jonas not to be particularly diligent in his cycling training at first. His friends Karsten Mikkelsen and Jesper Odgaard often had to push him to train with them.
“We had to go to his house, knock on the door and call Jonas, here we go. He didn’t want to lift his ass,” laughs Michael Valgren of EF Education-EasyPost, Vingaard’s childhood friend. But they took care of it with his parents.
At first, cycling was just a kind of recreational hobby for young Vingaard. He would have preferred to play football, but he was not good at all. Most sports have so many stories of young athletes making grandiose statements of intent early on about their level and their desire to conquer Olympic podiums. Not Jonas.
This otherwise friendly, polite and cheerful teenager from Thy could not have long imagined that he would become an immortal Tour de France winner in the ranks of the Jumbo-Visma team.
At first he just liked the bike
“I’m not sure Jonas realized how good he could be,” Karsten Mikkelsen, his longtime friend and first cycling mentor, recalled ahead of the 2023 Tour. “He was and still is a pretty ordinary, normal guy. He just wanted to see how far he could take him on the bike.
Jonas was said to be the type of guy, not maybe lazy, but if the coach told him to ride three to four hours a day, he would automatically only ride three.
Tour de France on the news list
Long before cycling became the mainstay of his life, Jonas was instead a talented young guitarist whose teacher was convinced that Jonas’ future lay in music. “He played guitar in school and took lessons for a while,” Vingeard’s father, Claus Rasmussen, told Cycling Weekly. He was also said to study well and rarely returned with homework because he did it at school before returning home. He loved math so much that Hillerslev’s elementary school teacher sometimes asked Jonas to help the other kids in the class.
At the time, Jonas was playing football. He would have liked that, but it didn’t suit him. “After all, that was the one thing he wasn’t good at. And that’s actually the reason why he started cycling,” Vingaard’s father explained. “I could see he didn’t want to play football. So I told him that the Tour of Denmark was starting soon in our city and asked him if he wanted to go see it.”
How it all began
After an initial hesitation, Jonas finally agreed and then met members of the ring Thy Cykle – a local club. During the race he was running a kind of time trial for the kids and suddenly he was hooked.
“Jonas was having fun and suddenly he got a little interested,” says the father. “Then we borrowed a bike from the club when the local club organized a little race for the children. And that’s how it all started. He didn’t finish first, I think second,” he recalled. “He got a little trophy and watched it in the car all the way back. He was ten years old.
At this time, the parents explain to their son that winning is not everything and encourage him above all to have fun with sport.
“That first year we went to many races in Denmark and saw that a lot of other kids were already living as professionals. The parents told them, you have to eat this, you have to drink that, but Jonas and I never discussed such things. In the beginning, it’s about having fun, enjoying it and making new friends,” explained the father.
And now an interesting detail. During the summer, the family often vacationed in the French Alps. They went to the mountains they didn’t have at home, it wasn’t very hot there. Jonas got to try out some of the iconic passes he had heard about. Coincidentally, they regularly stayed at a campsite at the foot of the mythical Alpe d’Huez. And Jonas started taking advantage of the mountain bounties.
He mastered passing while on vacation
They went there on vacation for years. Jonas really enjoyed the climbs. Already at 15-16 he showed that he was very good. The fact that he experienced one of the most difficult climbs in Europe was essential for him. Also because he was growing frustrated with the lack of success on flat tracks in Denmark.
Ultimately, a natural cycling physique and a talent for climbing were a big driver for Jonas to turn pro. He underwent tests in 2016 while riding for Odder Cykle – the same team that helped train future Tour of Flanders winner Kasper Asgreen (now Soudal Quick-Step). These revealed he had an unusually high VO2 max. At first they even thought the machine was broken.
The expert simply has never seen anything like this before. At age 17, Jonas’ VO2 Max was around 97. Interestingly, legendary Tour champion Miguel Indurain’s VO2 Max was between 78 and 95 milliliters.
Unsurprisingly, during the year, the UCI Continental team ColoQuick-CULT became interested in Jonas. They quickly signed a contract. In the first few months, Jonas finished second overall in the Tour of China and immediately attracted interest from other strong teams.
Later, during a training camp in Spain, 20-year-old Vingaard broke the record for the fastest run on the Coll de Rates near Alicante, previously held by WorldTour pro Tejay van Garderen. He covered 6.5 kilometers in 13.02 minutes and beat the American by 12 seconds. This apparently caught the attention of the Jumbo-Visma stable.
In the morning he cut fish
And suddenly nice things started to be said about Jonas. He was said to be relaxed, stress-free and had a great sense of humor.
Despite his rapid development, Vingaard was not yet a true professional. He needed a second job to earn extra money. In 2017, he therefore joined a fish auctioneer in Hanstholm, Denmark. Jonas worked the morning shift at Chrisfish, spinning and then ice-packing huge quantities of North Seafood ready to be shipped to customers across Europe. Every day he started at six or seven in the morning and worked until noon, so he still had time for the afternoon practice.
Jonas always understood the importance of having a second job and therefore a backup option in case cycling didn’t work out. “We told him that maybe it would be nice to make more money and have a plan B. When you’re young, you have to learn that everything doesn’t automatically come from heaven,” Jonas’ father said at the time.
Hard work at Chrisfish, training camps with ColoQuick and support from friends and family have finally paid off. In 2019, Dutch giants Jumbo-Visma appealed. But the main theme remained her self-confidence.
No expensive cars
“If you ask me, his confidence and self-esteem are way higher than people think,” a friend of Mikkelsen said. “He stays himself and knows what he wants. He just rides his bike and then goes home with his family. He doesn’t want anything else.
He is said to be the same Jonas his friends knew at first – a kind, hardworking, and fiercely loyal friend and husband. As before, he remains indifferent to the presentation on social networks, he is not interested in expensive luxury cars, money or fame.
Despite his first Tour victory, he puts himself, his family and other parts of his life first. That says a lot.
He once delivered a large trunk of shirts to a former club in Odder. Thus, young boys who were only ten years old could ride at home in the jersey of Jonas Vingaard. It shows that he hasn’t forgotten where he comes from.
Now, if nothing happens, he will win the Tour de France again.
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