Tour de France champion Jonas Vingaard said on Saturday he was “just not bothered” to be in the limelight since winning the race, and believes he can defend his title next year.
The 25-year-old Dane shot to fame after his Tour de France triumph in July, with tens of thousands of people on the streets of Copenhagen to welcome him as a hero.
More than 20,000 people gathered in his quiet home village of Glyngore, which normally has only 1,400 inhabitants, to greet the horseman who lives there with his wife Trine and daughter Frida.
Vingeard then skipped the Tour of Denmark and the road racing world championships in Australia before returning to racing in September.
His club’s sporting director Jumbo Visma said Vingaard had “struggled” to cope with the increased attention.
Vingegaard said in Japan, where he will compete in Saitama’s Criterium du Tour de France on Sunday, his new status was “just something to live with”.
“It’s my fault, you might say – I’m the reason there’s so much attention, and if you start caring, then that’s a problem,” he said. .
“I don’t care, so for me it’s not a problem.”
Vingaard became the first Dane to win the Tour de France since Bjarne Riis – who later admitted doping – in 1996.
The man Vingaard succeeded as champion, Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia, won the title two years in a row and the Dane hopes to emulate that feat.
“Of course I hope I can do it,” said Vingaard, when asked if he could win the Tour de France next year.
“I guess it will be harder every year, but I will try my best and hopefully I can do it.”
– ‘Best season’ –
Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome, who is also racing in Japan, believes Vingaard is “very well placed to step back and win the title next year”.
“I’ve always found, for me personally, the biggest obstacle to winning a second Tour de France is that your life changes after you win – it’s never the same again,” said Froome, who won the title three years in a row from 2016-18.
“But on the positive side, he now has the belief that he’s done it before, so there’s no reason he can’t do it again.”
Vingaard said he had “my best season so far” and is aiming for more success in Japan on Sunday.
Also competing in Saitama, north of Tokyo, are retired legends Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde, 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and sprint king Mark Cavendish.
Vingaard won the first Criterium of the Tour de France in Singapore last weekend ahead of Froome in second and Nibali in third.
“At the start of the season, my big goal was to try to win the Tour de France, and I succeeded,” Vingaard said.
“I think my year was a great success so in the end I’m very happy with how it all went.”