Vingegaard's astonishing Tour de France time trial shows cycling's stock response to brilliance remains one of concern | The Sun

JONAS VINGEGAARD'S second Tour de France title will be remembered for an astonishing time trial performance.

On Tuesday, the Dane, 26, destroyed rival Tadej Pogacar by one minute and 38 seconds on a 22.4 kilometres [13.6 miles] course – after 15 previous stages had yielded just a 10-second difference between the two.

It was a display of dominance met by disbelief from cycling fans.

Vingegaard trimmed FIVE PER CENT off the time of Pogacar – who had himself put a sensational 1:13 into superstar all-rounder Wout van Aert.

That's roughly the equivalent of winning the London Marathon by six minutes, or the 100 metres by half a second.

According to Gabriel Strozyk, using watts per kilogram as a method of measuring performance, Vingegaard's climbing data puts his ride up there as one of very best ever seen in the history of the sport.


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Statistically, it rivals displays from flawed champions Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich.

But while most other sports would be delighted to have witnessed this historic moment from a generational talent, cycling's default response to magnificence is suspicion.

And when you consider what has gone before, the pullback is understandable.

Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France seven times in a row between 1999 and 2005, was stripped of those wins in 2012 in one of sport's biggest ever doping scandals.

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Armstrong's ex-team-mate, Floyd Landis, was also stripped of his Tour crown in 2006, before Alberto Contador suffered the same fate after his 2010 triumph.

Four-time Tour winner Chris Froome was also embroiled in his own scandal in 2017 when he returned an "Adverse Analytical Finding" for almost twice his allowed dose of salbutamol, an asthma medication, before he was cleared the following year.

And they are just the high-profile cases.

Suffice to say doping is a topic discussed as much as the racing itself.

So it is no surprise questions were raised as soon as Vingegaard blew away two-time Tour winner Pogacar across just 13.6 miles in the French Alps.

Those who love the sport have been burnt too many times believing the unbelievable.

But it is also important there is a balance to the discussion.

Cycling needs to establish a difference between the brilliant and the questionable.

Similar controversy was caused by Pogacar's time trial at the 2020 Tour when he beat compatriot Primoz Roglic by 1:56 to claim his first title – winning the stage by 1:21.

But when Roglic then took 40 seconds out of Geraint Thomas to win the Giro d'Italia earlier this year, very few accusations were made.

So there is undoubtedly a debate to be had about when a performance becomes one in need of critique.

But standing five kilometres from the finish on the Cote de Domancy, seeing Vingegaard fly past with a 50-second advantage – which would nearly double before the line – there was an eery feeling among fans on the mountain.

Even the Danes and supporters of his team, Jumbo-Visma, were somewhat reduced to a startled muttering by what they had witnessed from a man who was working in a fish factory just five years ago.

Part of the sombre scene was fuelled by the knowledge that this Tour – which for so long looked set to come down to mere seconds – had been decided by one 32-minute effort.

And then there was the side of it that – in the words of the great journalist David Walsh – comes from the notion that cycling fans "reserve the right to applaud".

L'Equipe led with the headline "D'une autre planete" [From another planet] – seemingly a nod to the headline "Sur une autre planete" [On another planet] used to describe one of Armstrong's performances in 1999.

There is a dichotomy between appreciating a sensational sporting performance and being forced to put it in the context of the sport's dark past.

It is a frustrating balance cycling and its followers are still working through on a case-by-case basis.

That was typified in 2018 when Froome's breathtaking 80km attack to win the Giro d'Italia was met with both praise and derision.

Rider George Bennett, now a team-mate of Pogacar's, simply reacted: "[He] did a Landis" – referencing a similar solo ride from Landis during his 2006 Tour win that he was later stripped of.

But Froome has never been convicted of a doping offence and is now widely considered a legend of the sport.

Much like that ride from Froome, Vingegaard's TT should be taken at face value until anything to the contrary arises.

But a sceptical approach also remains a valid response when you consider what has come before, what we witnessed on Tuesday, and cycling's desperately sad, intrinsic link with crossing the line.

It feels cruel that 2023's peloton are being punished for the sins of past generations, but such is the culture that has been created.

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The display from Vingegaard shows that we, the cycling public, are still recovering – a heartbroken soul learning to trust again after the repeated cheating of a toxic ex.

Whether we can learn to love again in the same way we used to remains to be seen, but we are evidently a long way off.

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