No set deadline for Jonas Vingegaard’s Tour de France participation, team prioritises full recovery

The race against time continues. A sighting of Jonas Vingegaard training in Mallorca this week has heightened anticipation that the Tour de France champion may return to racing in time for the Grand Départ in Florence. However, his Visma-Lease a Bike team remains cautious about his participation in this year’s race.

During a visit to the Giro d’Italia on Thursday, manager Richard Plugge told Cyclingnews that Vingegaard would only ride the Tour if he was at “100%” when the race gets underway on 29 June. “He is doing well, he’s progressing really well,” Plugge stated. “But we need to make a decision later on if he is really able to be 100% at the start of the Tour de France. We need to see how it evolves in the coming weeks. We have good hopes, he is progressing well. But we also want to give him and ourselves the time to make a good decision.”

Vingegaard sustained a punctured lung and a broken collarbone in a mass crash at Itzulia Basque Country in April, spending twelve days in hospital in Vitoria. Earlier this month, Vingegaard returned to riding on the road at home in Glyngøre, Denmark, and this week, he was spotted training on the Coll de Soler in Mallorca.

Plugge added there was no fixed deadline to decide on Vingegaard’s participation. “We don’t have a fixed deadline, it evolves,” Plugge said. “At a certain moment, we will know. But when that moment will be is unclear.”

Vingegaard’s original Tour build-up was expected to include altitude camps at Sierra Nevada and Tignes on either side of the Critérium du Dauphiné. With his revised schedule, Plugge indicated that he was unlikely to race before the Tour. “Maybe we will add a race, but I think we will get more from training because it’s the best and most controlled way of working after such a crash,” Plugge said.

Vingegaard’s coach, Tim Heemskerk, recently told L’Équipe he hoped the rider would be able to return to something approaching a normal training load this week. He also mentioned that Vingegaard might spend some time at the team’s final pre-Tour altitude camp at Tignes.

After sweeping all three Grand Tours in 2023, Visma-Lease a Bike have faced a challenging season. Cian Uijtdebroeks’ promising Giro debut was cut short by illness last week, and Wout van Aert’s Classics campaign was halted by injuries from a crash at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Van Aert, originally slated to ride the Giro, is now in contention for a spot in Visma’s Tour line-up, but his participation, like Vingegaard’s, depends on his fitness. The Belgian returned to action at the Tour of Norway on Thursday, finishing a little under three minutes down on the opening stage.

“We have good hopes Wout can come to the Tour de France, but we have to see how it goes in the Tour of Norway and how it evolves,” Plugge commented. “For us, it’s a little bit strange. Normally we plan the whole year and keep to the plan. This year we have to adjust it, but that’s also part of the sport.”

Sepp Kuss, the Vuelta a España champion, seems the most likely man to lead Visma-Lease a Bike at the Tour if Vingegaard misses out. However, Plugge refused to delve into that scenario. “We will respond to that when the Tour starts,” he remarked.

While Vingegaard’s Tour prospects are uncertain, his main rival Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) has been in dominant form at the Giro, winning five stages so far. In Padua on Thursday evening, Pogačar was asked for his view on Plugge’s statement that Vingegaard would only ride the Tour if he was at “100%.”

“I mean, last year I was also not at my 100% and I still went and fought for the win,” said Pogačar, whose 2023 Tour preparation was hampered by a broken wrist at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “You never know what can happen. The tables could turn. But I think Jonas will be 100%, so I think we will see him at the Tour at his best.”

Vingegaard has beaten Pogačar to the past two Tours, having finished second to the Slovenian on his Tour debut in 2021. Pogačar’s dominance at the Giro indicates he will be an even tougher competitor this July, though Plugge noted it’s hard to judge based on the opposition in Italy. “I think what’s lacking here is that you don’t have Evenepoel or Roglič or Jonas Vingegaard to compete,” Plugge said. “That’s unfortunately the case. We have to see in the Tour de France what the real level is.”