Zeeman: Vingegaard is stronger than last year but Pogačar is the Tour de France favourite

Jumbo-Visma DS on seemingly two-horse battle for the yellow jersey

Clock09:00, Thursday 29th June 2023
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) head into the Tour de France as the top two favourites.

Velo Collection / Getty Images

Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) head into the Tour de France as the top two favourites.

With the Tour de France just a few days away the tension and excitement continues to build with very little to separate the two main contenders, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma). Both riders have been in startling form this season, with Vingegaard hoping to defend his Tour title from 2022 and join Pogačar on two overall wins.

While there’s been very little to choose between the pair in recent months, the mind games have already started with both the Jumbo-Visma and UAE camps ratcheting up the intensity for their respective rivals, while at the same time looking to quell the pressure within their own squads.

On Wednesday UAE’s Mauro Gianetti told L’Equipe that Adam Yates would be given co-leadership billing alongside Pogačar due to the fact that the Slovenian remains relatively untested in recent months following a wrist fracture sustained in the spring.At the same time, Jumbo-Visma’s lead sports director Merijn Zeeman has told GCN that it is Pogačar who goes into the Tour de France as the red-hot favourite.

“I feel Pogačar was unbeatable this year but in reality there were also some races that he didn't win. But in the stage races that he’s competed in, he has been the best. He’s won the Tour de France twice, so I would say that he’s the top favourite. Last year he was too but he’s still the favourite in our eyes. I don’t want to hide, and Jonas is a fantastic rider, and a very good favourite. They’re close to each other but that’s how we see it,” Zeeman told GCN.

Whatever the outcome, it is clear that Vingegaard has made major strides in the last few months and he certainly heads into the Tour de France with more momentum than his principal rival. After a bruising encounter at Paris-Nice, where Pogačar comfortably beat the Dane, the Jumbo-Visma leader has found his stride, winning both the Tour of the Basque Country and the Critérium du Dauphiné. Such was his recent dominance in France in mid-June that he looked near untouchable whenever the road went upwards in the mountains.

“He’s shown that he’s developed,” Zeeman said.“Of course last year he was super good but he’s continued his progress in one week stage races. In Gran Camino, then Pais Basque and The Dauphiné, those were two races where he was super good, and by far the best of the peloton. That was the first time he’s shown that in one week stage races. I really think that he’s better than last year.”Away from the Tour shenanigans Zeeman is busily putting the finishing touches to next year’s Jumbo-Visma squad.

With Rohan Dennis set to retire at the end of the current campaign, and a clutch of riders likely to move on to pastures news there is space within the team to hire new recruits. Ineos Grenadiers prodigy Ben Tulett has been linked with a move, although Zeeman wasn’t able to comment on that rider in particular. Jed Smithson, Tomos Pattinson, and Matthew Brennan are all set to join the development squad for 2024.

“I can’t comment on that,” he said in relation to Tulett.

“But what I can say is that I try to bring in different generations and we’ve got super good riders. It’s my job to find the best riders in the world for the next five and even ten years. That means recruiting the youngsters for the development team, and that’s why I'm constantly active on the transfer market. If it’s true, yes or no, that’s something you need to confirm with sources yourself.”

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