Tour de France rivals Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard brace for fresh duel

Danish rider Jonas Vingegaard won the 2024 Tour de France. Picture: Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP

Danish rider Jonas Vingegaard won the 2024 Tour de France. Picture: Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP

Published Jun 22, 2024


The Tour de France embarks from Florence next Saturday billed as a four-way struggle spearheaded by bitter rivals Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard on a route designed to take the world's greatest bike race down to the wire.

Team UAE's Slovenian rider Pogacar goes into the 21-day race on red-hot form, while Visma's Vingegaard, the two-time defending champion from Denmark, hasn't raced since suffering multiple fractures in a fall in March.

Vingegaard's fall offers Pogacar a chance at revenge for the brutal manner in which the Dane crushed him on two Alpine stages late in the 2023 edition.

"It's already my fifth time coming to the Tour and I'm really excited about it," said Pogacar, a back-to-back winner in 2020 and 2021.

While the fiery Pogacar dislikes heat and high altitude, Vingegaard is the man on the back foot this year due to the punctured lung and broken ribs he sustained in that March accident.

Behind these chalk-and-cheese rivals is a bevvy of pretenders awaiting the slightest slip on a treacherous route in a year where bike accidents have hogged the headlines.

— Tadej Pogačar (@TamauPogi) May 26, 2024

Veteran Primoz Roglic has won the Vuelta and the Giro in his career and will be riding the Tour in the colours of new sponsor Red Bull, a new contract worth six million euros a year in his back pocket.

Also in the mix is the impossible-to-ignore talent of Belgian Remco Evenepoel (Quick Step), who will target the two time-trials and the gravel roads on what should be an enthralling Tour debut for the 24-year-old targeting the best young rider jersey.

The route crosses the Alps twice with seven mountain slogs, features a first-ever race on white gravel and ends with an eye-catching individual time trial from Monaco to Nice along the French Riviera.

Broadcast live in more than 100 countries, the first four days are drenched with Italian colour, starting with the Renaissance beauty of Florence before the race crosses the Rubicon river, takes in the seaside sights at Rimini, passes along the Via Romagna road into Bologna and eventually moves out of Fiat capital Turin towards France for the remaining 17 stages.

British sprinter Mark Cavendish will then take the spotlight on stages five and six as he targets a record 35th stage win on the Tour.

A year after a high-speed crash brought his 2023 Tour to an abrupt end on stage eight, Cavendish is desperately hoping to claim the record for stage wins. The Isle of Man native is currently locked on 34 wins alongside the all-time great rider Eddy Merckx.

Spectacular climax

Instead of the traditional parade round Paris on the final day for the 21st stage, a timetable clash with the 2024 Olympic Games in the French capital sent the organisers looking elsewhere.

And what a solution they found. In place of the sprint up and down the Champs-Elysees, the stage is now an individual 34.5km time-trial along the coastline corniches between Monaco and Nice.

The last stage could well provide a last twist in fate for the riders, evoking memories of the 1989 Tour, when American Greg LeMond started a rare final-day time trial 50 seconds behind French leader Laurent Fignon and ended up winning the race by eight seconds.

With another wink at history Pogacar is aiming to become the first rider in 26 years to win the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in the same season.

He romped almost unopposed to the Giro title in May and should he pull off the ambitious feat he will join a list of legends in Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Stephen Roche, Miguel Indurain and Marco Pantani, the last man to achieve the double in 1998.

The seven mountain stages, which include four high-altitude finales, with the highest at 2,802m on stage 19, will be to the liking of Vingegaard.