Jonas Vingegaard stays in yellow but Tour hopes suffer blow with crash and team-mates’ withdrawal

Jonas Vingegaard stays in yellow but Tour hopes suffer blow with crash and team-mates' withdrawal - AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Jonas Vingegaard stays in yellow but Tour hopes suffer blow with crash and team-mates’ withdrawal – AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Just when you thought this Tour de France might be over, that Jonas Vingegaard had all the answers, the momentum shifted again.

Vingegaard, who has looked impregnable since taking Tadej Pogacar’s yellow jersey in the Alps on Wednesday, lost two key team-mates to injury on Sunday in a development that could have “massive” implications for this race, according to Ineos Grenadiers’ deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth.

First Primoz Roglic, the three-time Vuelta a Espana champion, abandoned just before the start of stage 15. Jumbo-Visma said the Slovenian had failed to overcome the injuries he sustained in his crash on the cobbled stage in week one. But the timing seemed odd.

Roglic may have been in pain but he appeared to be riding well enough, playing a key role on the stage to the Col du Granon where Jumbo successfully “mugged” Pogacar. Surely he could have limped on, if only to see if could lend a hand in the Pyrenees?

The rumour in the paddock was that the 31-year-old wanted to down tools to prepare himself for another crack at the Vuelta next month, and that Jumbo felt they had enough in reserve without him.

If that is the case, the Dutch team will be bitterly regretting that decision this morning. An infernally hot stage from Rodez to Carcassonne, which saw temperatures nudge 40C, ended up being a disaster.

First Steven Kruijswijk, a key mountain domestique for Vingegaard, went down in a crash with 65 kilometres to go and was unable to continue due to a suspected broken collarbone.

Then Vingegaard himself fell, along with another Jumbo rider, Tiesj Benoot. Both were able to get back on their bikes, with Vingegaard later shrugging off what he described as a bit of “road rash”. But it is often the second day after a crash when a rider really knows if he has been hurt or not; depending on how badly the body stiffens up, or whether their sleep has been affected.

Monday’s final rest day in Carcassonne will be a busy one for Jumbo’s soigneurs, that is for sure.

Vingegaard was his usual inscrutable self afterwards. “Yeah I mean, as you say, it’s two very, very important team-mates [Roglic and Kruijswijk]. Two very, very strong riders. So that’s of course not nice. It’s quite a bad day for us. But we’ll just keep on fighting all the way to Paris.”

He added: “I’m OK. I have some road rash on my left side. Yeah I went down but I was quickly back up again. I feel a bit sore but that’s how it is after a crash.”

There is no doubt Jumbo’s ill luck will have buoyed Pogacar. There are three big stages in the Pyrenees to come, starting on Tuesday, and he and his UAE team will be plotting where and how they can exact revenge for what happened in the Alps.

UAE were just beginning to look as if they might be out of ideas, but like two quick wickets in a Test match, the picture suddenly looks very different.

And skulking in the background, waiting to pounce, or just pick up the pieces, are Ineos. Geraint Thomas, at 2:43 to the yellow jersey, is absolutely still in the race.

“Obviously it’s not great for them to lose two guys,” he said after the stage ended in a bunch sprint, with Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen, the man who celebrated prematurely in Calais when he mistakenly believed he had won, finally getting to hold his arms aloft for the right reasons.

Thomas said: “Roglic might have been suffering but he still did well yesterday. And Kruijswijk has been going well. They’ll definitely miss them. They’re a strong team still but it will definitely make them weaker.”

Ellingworth was even more bullish. “Massive,” he told Telegraph Sport when asked how it might affect the racing. “We were very surprised to see Roglic go home. It leaves him [Vingegaard] more exposed. That’s what they did with Pogacar isn’t it? You get them in the valley on their own …”

Could Thomas yet win a second Tour de France? “I mean, we’re very realistic, and G is very realistic, about where we are and the gap to the front two and how well those two are going… they look very good. But here are so many things which are at play here. Consistency, tactics, luck. You just never know. That’s why the Tour is so great, the door is always open.”