Jonas Vingegaard survived a near fall on Saturday’s individual time trial to virtually round out the 2022 Tour de France title and now only needs to cross the finish line of the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday to claim the yellow jersey from to guarantee the champion.
Team Jumbo’s Vingegaard tops the overall standings with 3 minutes 34 seconds ahead of two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar, while Geraint Thomas of Ineos Grenadiers, the 2018 winner, is third at 8 minutes 13 seconds.
Frenchman David Gaudu of FDJ and Aleksandr Vlasov of Bora round out the top five for Sunday’s stage to Paris, which is traditionally a ceremonial ride.
“I’m still proud of myself, I did what I could, and at least I have the white jersey (best under 25),” said Pogacar on the line.
Saturday’s time trial was won by Wout van Aert ahead of his Danish teammate Vingegaard, meaning Jumbo has six stage wins, the yellow jersey, the green sprint jersey and the polka dot jersey.
Van Aert will also be a favorite to win the final day sprint around the Champs-Elysées before the jersey winners are crowned on a podium under the Arc de Triomphe.
Two years ago, Pogacar famously wiped out a 57-second deficit on the penultimate day stage at La Planche des Belles Filles to take Primoz Roglic’s win.
But on Saturday, Vingegaard was the last of the 139 surviving riders to race down the slope and set a relentlessly fast pace through the baking country roads, never really creating a nerve-wracking battle with Pogacar.
He suffered from a late wobble, however, where he lost his rear wheel sliding over gravel in a gutter, but just managed to get himself up.
The Dane was eight seconds faster than his big rival on the day and Pogacar looked dejected towards the finish.
His ‘never-say-die’ attitude gave the 109th edition of the Tour a tense lead all the way to the finish.
The two protagonists battled each other from start to finish, with Vingegaard dethroning the two-time champion with a few soaring feats in the high mountains.
Pogacar made the early run with his lone wolf mentality and gradually clawed for first place on the podium with a semblance of invincibility.
But the stars aligned with Pogacar as he lost teammates to Covid and injury. He is also a man who is known to hate intense heat.
Vingegaard took the yellow jersey from Pogacar on stage 11 and while the UAE man stubbornly refused to give up, he lost further ground on stage 18.
Their epic battle was highlighted by a moment of sportsmanship as Pogacar fell at high speed and the pretender to the throne waited for him to catch up, the pair briefly joining forces in a memorable image of one of the best modern editions of the Tour.