154km to go: The first mountains points checkpoint awaits, and there’s a hell of a racket being made by the home fans. “Magnus, Magnus,” they chant. It’s so busy out there, the fans filling the roads, lanes and byways, every possible space. The crowd seems as big as those you might find on Alpe D’Huez or the Champs-Élysées. Their man has a lead approaching 6’ 30”. He speeds up the Côte de Koldingvej, the first climb of the day. This is an incredible scene, with amazing noise. A Frenchman closing in on winning Le Tour itself would struggle to be greeted with such raptures. He takes the single point on offer, and he will leave Denmark with the polka-dot jersey.
160km to go: Cort stays away from the pack in what has been a gentle start for all but him. He’s swinging along the lanes to much applause from the locals.
170km to go: Cort’s continues to take it, up his lead at 3’ 10” and the peloton are sat up, pretty much, and letting him get on with it. All very chatty up the front of the pack, with Wout van Aert gabbing away with a teammate, on the occasion of his first day in a yellow jersey. He didn’t get the win yesterday, with Jakobsen swooping at the finish, but he did get the jersey.
178km to go: A reminder of yesterday’s drama. There’s no such thing as a safe day on the Tour de France. They are *always* going hell for leather.
Magnus Cort, the Dane who is wearing the polka dot jersey, sets off at one hell of a rate, and he appears determined to leave his home country and arrive in France in that shirt. Nobody else is really following him. A lap of honour, just about. He takes a lead of 40 seconds.
Huge crowd and a sunny day in Vejle, a place football fans may know as the home of Allan Simonsen, and later on, Preben Elkjær and John Sivæbek, the latter who you may know scored the first ever goal for an Alex Ferguson-managed Manchester United team.
We’re not far from Kilometre Zero, and today’s départ. That’s afrejse in Danish. Start, incidentally, is begyndelse. So the internet tells me, and we are always happy to be corrected.
William Fotheringham wrote this excellent piece for today’s Observer, on France’s latest fading great hope.
Barring a highly improbable turn of events, 36 years of French frustration in the men’s Tour is about to become 37. Pinot is not starting the race as the leader of his Groupama-FDJ team after requesting that the role should be delegated – for the moment at least – to the young climber David Gaudu, who supported Pinot in the 2019 race.
Pinot’s reluctance to lead Groupama is understandable. His last two Tours both ended in agony, with a thigh injury putting him out in 2019 and a nasty crash in 2020’s opening stage leading to an 18-month battle to return to his best.
He spoke this past week about how the pressure of leadership has made riding the Tour increasingly onerous, notably the fear that something will happen in the opening week to destroy his chances. Pinot feels that bearing the hopes of a nation in its prime sporting event has deprived him of the pleasure he gains from simply racing his bike. Clearly, giving way to Gaudu is a relief; instead of sleeping for only six and a half hours, he can manage a full eight thanks to the reduced stress.
Le Tour’s final day in Denmark before its return to France and Dunkirk, looks another one for the sprinters, crashes like that on the final surge yesterday permitting.
Stage 3: Sunday 3 July: Vejle-Sønderbørg, 182km
The run south down the Jutland peninsula is on less exposed roads than the day before so, assuming the wind is favourable, it should produce the first “routine” sprinters’ stage of the race, with Jakobsen – who has ousted Mark Cavendish as Quickstep’s preferred Tour sprinter – taking on the likes of Caleb Ewan and Jasper Philipsen. The following day the caravan transfers south to France.
William Fotheringham suggests the above in our pre-race preview though there must be a question over the rain, the forecast in Sønderbørg is for showers. Slippery roads mean carnage, and Tadej Pogacar, though he winked at the camera yesterday, may have counted himself lucky not to suffer anything worse. Expect Fabio Jakobsen to be involved today at the front, all being well, and the same must go for Wout van Aert, the current yellow jersey.