PARIS (AP) — Danish rider Jonas Vingegaard won the Tour de France for a second straight year as cycling’s most storied race finished Sunday on the famed Champs-Élysées.
With a huge lead built up over main rival Tadej Pogačar, the 2020 and 2021 winner, Vingegaard knew the victory was effectively his again before the largely ceremonial stage at the end of the 110th edition of the Tour.
The 26-year-old Vingegaard drank champagne with his Jumbo-Visma teammates as they lined up together and posed for photos on the way to Paris.
“It’s been a long journey, yet it went by so fast,” Vingegaard said. “Day after day, it was a super hard race with a super nice fight between me and Tadej. I’ve enjoyed every day. I hope to come back next year and see if I can take a third win.”
It had been a three-week slog over 3,405 kilometers (2,116 miles) with eight mountain stages across five mountain ranges. Vingegaard seized 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 almost 6 minutes ahead of his exhausted rival.
“I’m dead,” Pogačar said.
The Slovenian rider responded by winning the penultimate stage on Saturday, but Vingegaard still had an insurmountable lead of 7 minutes, 29 seconds going into the final stage – a mostly ceremonial stage which is contested at the end by the sprinters.
“We have to be careful not to do anything stupid,” Vingegaard warned Saturday, “but yeah, it’s amazing to take my second victory in the Tour de France.”
Vingegaard kept that lead and was able to celebrate early Sunday as organizers decided to take the times one lap before the finish when it started raining on the cobblestones of the Champs-Élysées. The decision invited the sprinters to fight for the stage victory – the only remaining uncertainty.
Belgian cyclist 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 was a super nice experience already so far, and to take the win today is an indescribable feeling,” said Meeus, who clocked a top speed of 68.8 kph (42.8 mph) on the last kilometer.
Pogačar, who attacked after just one lap of eight altogether on the Champs-Élysées, was wearing the white jersey as the best young rider for the 75th day – extending a career Tour record. The 24-year-old Slovenian rider has won the best young rider classification every year since 2020.
But Pogačar had to be content with second place in the general classification again.
British rider Adam Yates, Pogačar’s teammate, finished third overall, ahead of his twin brother Simon.
Colombian rider Egan Bernal, the 2019 Tour winner, completed the race as he made his impressive comeback from a life-threatening crash. The 26-year-old Bernal said he narrowly avoided becoming paralyzed after an accident with a bus while training in Colombia in January 2022.
“It’s difficult to compare with the year I won but it’s almost the same feeling because for me it’s a great victory,” Bernal said. “Yesterday, in the last climb, I was so lucky I was alone and could enjoy the last kilometers. I was so emotional.”