Vingegaard Responds to Evenepoel’s Criticism of Racing Style

Jonas Vingegaard has addressed Remco Evenepoel’s remarks that he didn’t have “the balls to race” during Sunday’s gravel stage at the Tour de France. With a smile, Vingegaard explained he was focused on “riding smart.”

Vingegaard and his Visma-Lease a Bike team opted for a defensive strategy on the 14 gravel sectors near Troyes, central France. Their aim was to minimise the risk of losing time or engaging directly with top rivals like Tadej Pogačar.

During the gravel stage, Pogačar and Evenepoel launched multiple attacks. Vingegaard responded well but did not collaborate with them to distance other general classification (GC) contenders. At 77 km to go, Evenepoel surged ahead on the fourth-category Côte de Chacenay. Pogačar and Vingegaard followed but the Dane refused to work. With 20 km remaining, thanks to Matteo Jorgenson’s efforts, Vingegaard caught up with Pogačar. Evenepoel and Primož Roglič were left behind, but again Vingegaard refrained from working.

Evenepoel expressed his frustration, saying, “Tadej and I were not happy because maybe the whole Tour could have been decided… sometimes you also need the balls to race, and unfortunately maybe Jonas didn’t have them.”

During the Visma-Lease a Bike press conference near Orleans on the rest day, Vingegaard anticipated the question and defended his approach. He pointed out that Evenepoel often races aggressively rather than smart and defensively.

“We were mainly focused on not losing time,” Vingegaard stated. “If I had gone with those two and they had left me behind where I had to let Pogačar ride a bit later, I would have lost the Tour yesterday. It wasn’t a lack of ‘balls,’ I just rode smart.”

Vingegaard’s cautious approach comes after a tough start to the season. He suffered a punctured lung, broken collarbone, and several broken ribs in a crash during the Itzulia Basque Country in early April. Limited to six weeks of serious training, he has tried to minimise his time losses, especially to Pogačar, hoping to peak in the final week when Pogačar may weaken.

Vingegaard lost 50 seconds on the stage to Valloire and an additional 25 seconds in the Cote d’Or time trial. He currently sits 1:15 behind Pogačar in the GC standings, with Evenepoel between them at 33 seconds and Primož Roglič fourth overall at 1:36.

“I feel like I’m growing,” Vingegaard said, possibly playing mind games. “I’m getting better and better. I’m at a high level, much higher than I ever expected with just a month and a half of preparation.”

Describing the first nine stages as a “relatively easy opening week,” Vingegaard remains cautious about time losses. He believes he might still win the Tour de France, potentially in the final time trial to Nice.

“I can’t put a number on that. Last year I took seven minutes in two days. Now we don’t know how I’m going to react in the third week. We’ll see day by day,” he said. “Of course, the closer I am, the better. But I trusted our plan last year. That worked. I trust the plan this year too. If I win, that’s good. Otherwise, life just goes on. That crash changed a lot in that respect.”

Pogačar consistently tries to gain time on Vingegaard, but the Dane is also seeking allies to help manage Pogačar’s aggressive tactics.

“No, I don’t see Pogačar as my only rival. I’m wary of the entire top 10, maybe even more riders,” he suggested. “It’s also to my advantage that there are several rivals. Then we can help each other to make it a hard race.”

Main photo credit: ASO – Charly Lopez