PARIS (AP) — Danish cyclist Jonas Vingegaard won the Tour de France for the second year in a row as the most famous cycling race ended on the famed Champs-Elysees on Sunday.
With a huge lead accumulated over his main rival Tadej Pogačar, the 2020 and 2021 winner, Vingegaard knew victory was effectively his again before the largely ceremonial stage at the end of the 110th edition of the Tour.
Vingegaard, 26, sipped champagne with his Jumbo-Visma teammates as they lined up and posed for photos en route to Paris.
“It’s been a long journey, but it went by very quickly,” Vingegaard said. “Day after day, it was a super tough race with a super nice fight between me and Tadej. I have enjoyed every day. I hope to come back next year and see if I can get a third win.”
It had been a three-week slog over 3,405 kilometers (2,116 miles) with eight mountain stages through five mountain ranges. Vingegaard took control of the race over two stages in the Alps.
Little had separated the two rivals until Vingegaard finished a time trial 1 minute, 38 seconds ahead of Pogačar on Tuesday, then followed up the next day by finishing the toughest mountain stage of the race nearly 6 minutes ahead of his exhausted rival.
“I am dead,” Pogacar said.
The Slovenian cyclist responded by winning the penultimate stage on Saturday, but Vingegaard still held an insurmountable lead of 7 minutes 29 seconds before the final stage, a mainly ceremonial stage contested by the sprinters at the finish.
“We have to be careful not to do anything stupid,” Vingegaard warned on Saturday, “but yeah, it’s amazing to get my second Tour de France victory.”
Vingegaard held onto that lead and was able to celebrate early on Sunday when organizers decided to take times one lap before the end when it began to rain on the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees. The decision invited the sprinters to fight for stage victory, the only uncertainty that remained.
Belgian rider Jordi Meeus prevailed in a photo finish between four riders on the line, just ahead of Jasper Philipsen, Dylan Groenewegen and Mads Pedersen.
“It was my first Tour. It’s already been a super nice experience so far, and getting the win today is an indescribable feeling,” said Meeus, who posted a top speed of 68.8 kph (42.8 mph) over the last kilometer.
Pogacar, who attacked after just one lap of eight in total on the Champs-Élysées, wore the white jersey as the best young cyclist on day 75, extending a Tour career record. The 24-year-old Slovenian cyclist has won the best young cyclist ranking every year since 2020.
But Pogacar once again had to settle for second place in the general classification.
British cyclist Adam Yates, Pogacar’s teammate, finished third overall, ahead of his twin brother Simon.
Colombian cyclist Egan Bernal, winner of the 2019 Tour, completed the race when he made his impressive comeback from a life-threatening accident. Bernal, 26, said he narrowly avoided being paralyzed after a bus accident while training in Colombia in January 2022.
“It’s hard to compare to the year I won but it’s almost the same feeling because for me it’s a great victory,” Bernal said. “Yesterday, on the last climb, I was lucky to be alone and to be able to enjoy the last kilometres. I was so excited.”
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