With just a hand placed on his heart and then a brief wave of a clenched right fist in acknowledgement of his triumph, the lack of a victory celebration when Jonas Vingegaard reached the finish line on stage 16 of the Vuelta a España spoke volumes about the emotional turmoil he was feeling on Tuesday afternoon.
The morning news that Jumbo-Visma teammate Nathan Van Hooydonck and his wife had been involved in a serious car accident cast an enormous shadow on the squad at the Vuelta. Vingegaard, who is close friends with Van Hooydonck, was particularly affected.
However, Van Hooydonck’s accident also clearly provided Jumbo-Visma with a steely determination to dedicate a win to their teammate, as they relentlessly chased down any attempts at breakaways en route to the summit finish at Bejes.
Vingegaard then provided the coup de grace with a blistering attack four kilometres from the line, forging ahead with such power on a relatively-short climb that by the finish as the stage winner he was 1:01 up his closest group of GC rivals.
Thanks to his attacks, the Dane is now second overall, moving ahead of teammate Primož Roglič and is only 29 seconds back on GC leader Sepp Kuss. But his main goal, he said afterwards, was a victory to dedicate to Van Hooydonck. It was the fourth win in the team’s tally in this year’s Vuelta, but given the circumstances, surely the most significant by far.
“Yes it’s a very emotional victory,” Vingegaard, visibly affected by his friend’s predicament, told reporters afterwards, “and now I’ll have to be careful not to cry again.
“This morning we got the terrible news and I think it affected everyone in the team. He’s my best friend and I wanted to win for him so badly, to dedicate the win to him.”
An update just before the stage reached the foot of the final climb that Van Hooydonck had taken a big turn for the better after his accident considerably boosted the team’s spirits. As Vingegaard put it, “Luckily now there is good news about his condition so that’s a big relief for me and for the team and I hope he will recover soon.”
But by that point, Jumbo-Visma’s plan to take the victory was in full swing as well. As Vingegaard explained.
“The team did an amazing job today, when the break went the guys were controlling it super well and then I went for it. The team gave the three of us [himself, Roglič and Kuss] the chance to go for it. I went for it at a good moment.”
He was surprised, he said,…