Evenepoel, Vingegaard, Pogacar: a winter of hungry champions | Sports| The USA Print

Jonas Vingegaard, in front of the Santiago Cathedral, on the final podium of O Gran Camiño.

Jonas Vingegaard, in front of the Santiago Cathedral, on the final podium of O Gran Camiño.IRAIA CALVO

It is still night in Santiago when Jonas Vingegaard, at 7.30 in the morning, jumps out of bed. It is cold and dark outside, the same vision, the same distemper, that awaited him when a year ago, injured by cycling, he worked filleting cod and packing them in a fish market in the North Sea, in Denmark, and worked six to 12, and then he trained. He is not afraid of the cold or the snow that he braved on Saturday without gloves or leg warmers or long sleeves on the bike. He knows it. In the Galician capital, another routine awaits him, breakfast, recognition of the time trial route, rest and a roller before leaving, at 2:08 p.m. They had not yet reached 2:42 p.m., 23 minutes and 47 seconds later, he finishes pedaling and sees that he has won, the only one of all who has reached an average of more than 45 kilometers per hour in the 18 kilometers. He leads Australian specialist Rohan Dennis, a two-time world champion and fellow Jumbo rider, by 35s on the stage. In general, he is accompanied on the podium by the Spanish from Mota del Cuervo Jesús Herrada (Cofidis), at 2m 31s, and the Portuguese Ruben Guerreiro (Movistar), at 2m 48s.

It is O Gran Camiño, the Galician race, a laboratory for cycling of the future, without dandruff and on narrow roads, and a stone Via Crucis for whose existence Ezequiel Mosquera fights against the established powers, always reactionary, the UCI, the judges. In it, in its second edition, only the last Tour champion has won stages. He faces the time trial that closes it, in front of the Portico de la Gloria, with the yellow jersey a little loose, not as tight as he would like, as if he were in the Tour de France, with the same seriousness, meticulousness, the same care for the minimal detail, and Willem, his press officer, always by his side with a bottle of hydroalcoholic gel with which he serves a few drops to rub his hands after each signed autograph or photographic pose with an amateur.

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For Vingegaard, on the road to the Tour, there are no minor races. They are all a step that must be taken without errors. It’s not the only one. For all cycling champions today, life is like that. For Tadej Pogacar, who does not know how not to run 100%, whether the race is a classic in Jaén, the Tour of Andalusia or the Tirreno-Adriatico. For Remco Evenepoel too, the world champion and the last Vuelta, he doesn’t think about the Tour in July but about the Giro in May. All three have already won this season, each in his own way. The season for them is divided between weeks of concentration in height and weeks of competition. An alienated life. They are no longer February, March, April, May, the months in which the races were used to train with the bib, as they said, to lose the weight and fat accumulated between November and January the champions of before, Jan Ullrich, Lance Armstrong, Greg LeMond, Pantani, Froome, so human in the distance.

On the way to maturity, Remco has discovered the fear of sin, the value of calculation. He wins the Emirates Tour without having won a single one of his stages, looking for bonuses, without exhibitions. None of the distant and sometimes crazy attacks with which they won the admiration of the fans. “It’s just that I wasn’t very sure either because I haven’t done any concentration at altitude yet,” says Evenepoel as an apology after the last stage, in which he came second behind the Englishman Adam Yates. “I am proud to have known how to defend myself.”

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Pogacar is the same as always, without wanting to fear anything, the carefree child who runs spectacularly, far attacks, instinct, just to win and doesn’t cry when he loses. In Galicia, Vingegaard shows that he is not a minor winner, the result of the extreme science of the Jumbo, a mixture of physics, mathematics and group management. I am a champion too, he means before the golden stones of the Obradoiro. A champion who has discovered that he too can have a cannibalistic appetite – like the cannibal Eddy Merckx, an example of a total winner – and wins with more calculated, measured attacks than Pogacar, and he is so satisfied that each victory seems to whet his appetite more . “I want to try to win as much as possible. I’m still anxious to win. I want to win a lot of races”, says the Dane at the Obradoiro, after verifying the clumsiness with the zippers of the president of the Xunta, Alfonso Rueda, who leaves him with his back in the air after imposing the last yellow jersey on him. His clash next week with Pogacar in Paris-Nice has the fans eager to see the top two of last Tour de France head-to-head. “Yes, he is doing very well too, but I only worry about myself, to do my best. And, yes, I’m going to go to Paris-Nice to try to win”.

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