“Batman” Groenewegen takes flight again in Dijon

“Batman” Groenewegen takes flight again in Dijon
“Batman” Groenewegen takes flight again in Dijon

Dylan Groenewegen was afraid of looking like an “idiot” with his glasses on his prominent nose: they brought him luck on Wednesday in Dijon where the Dutch sprinter returned to victory in the Tour de France after two years of drought.

On the eve of a key time trial in the vineyards of Burgundy, Tadej Pogacar retained his yellow jersey, despite some cold sweats when he found himself completely isolated and deprived of teammates in a mid-stage echelon.

After ten kilometres of uncertainty, everything returned to normal and the sprinters were able to enter the action in Dijon as expected.

And “Batman won,” joked Matt White, the sporting director of Jayco-AlUla, the Australian team Groenewegen joined in 2022.

The Dutch champion won ahead of Eritrean Biniam Girmay and Colombian Fernando Gaviria, while Belgian Jasper Philipsen, so strong last year but still coming up empty-handed, was disqualified for dangerous behaviour, after initially taking second place.

“I’m super happy, especially with the blue-white-red jersey on my shoulders,” commented Groenewegen, who, at 31, won his sixth victory in the Tour, his first since 2022.

The Dutchman caused a sensation on Monday by showing up at the start wearing glasses with a black nose incorporated for the first stage promised to the sprinters.

“It’s supposed to be more aerodynamic, I hope it’s effective because otherwise I’ll look like an idiot,” he joked.

– “Weird” glasses –

“They look a bit weird, we agree, but the rules allow them. I don’t know how many extra watts they give me, but if they allow me to be a bit faster, it’s worth it,” he added on Thursday, his eyes laughing.

For the tattooed sprinter from Amsterdam, this success has a special flavour, he the former “bad boy” of the peloton, who went through hell before seeing the light again.

Four years ago, he was threatened with death by fans and heaped with all sorts of ills for having sent Fabio Jakobsen into the barriers during the Tour of Poland in 2020, a terrible crash which nearly cost his compatriot his life.

He atoned for this episode at the Tour de France in 2022, where he raised his arms one day after Jakobsen, in a strange synchronicity which, failing to reconcile them, put an end to a story that weighed on both riders.

On Thursday, Groenewegen was able to rejoice with a clear mind at a return to the forefront after a 2023 edition spent helplessly following the exploits of Jasper Philipsen.

On this Tour, he becomes the third different sprinter to win in a mass finish after Mark Cavendish the day before and Biniam Girmay on Monday.

“You can feel it: there is no one who is really dominating, it is very open,” summed up the Frenchman Arnaud Démare, who is getting closer with a seventh place on Thursday.

– Pogacar “not stressed” –

Last year, Philipsen, a four-time stage winner, had crushed everything. This year, the Belgian, still very nervous and disappointed in Dijon, is going through a difficult phase that is reshuffling the cards for the green jersey classification still in Girmay’s possession.

“It’s going really well for me so far. Every day another sprinter wins. It’s an interesting situation, no one is taking off,” said the Eritrean, the first African in history to wear the jersey.

The yellow is still firmly attached to the shoulders of Pogacar who has a 45-second lead over Remco Evenepoel and 50 over Jonas Vingegaard before Friday’s time trial.

The Slovenian assures that he did not tremble when he found himself all alone in a first peloton, deprived of his seven teammates trapped on a side-step initiated by the Visma team with Christophe Laporte in the lead, 83 km from the finish.

“I knew it was going to come back. The conditions weren’t very good for a border. There was some nervousness, a few breaks, but not too much stress,” he assured.

Things did indeed calm down after ten kilometres of furiously crossing the small villages of the Côte d’Or. But the episode confirmed that Pogacar had at his disposal a UAE team that was perhaps untouchable in the mountains but more fragile on the plains.

On Friday, he will be all alone on his time trial bike for “a crucial day for all the leaders in the general classification”. “I can’t wait to go and test the legs”, he quickly said, before confirming his eagerness by skipping the press conference.

jk/both

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