SINGAPORE – There were no mountains for climbing specialist Jonas Vingegaard to attack at the inaugural Tour de France Prudential Singapore Criterium, but that did not stop the Dane from claiming the title from 43 other cyclists on Sunday.
On a sizzling afternoon that saw his rivals wilting in the heat, the reigning Tour de France champion was unfazed as he crossed the finish line in 1hr 19min 47sec to emerge triumphant in a battle with former Tour winners.
Four-time Tour winner Chris Froome was second, while 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali, who has announced he will retire at the end of 2022, was third.
Vingegaard, 25, said: “It’s been a great season and great to take a victory in yellow here too. Every time you win in yellow is special.”
The race, which is the Tour de France’s first criterium in Singapore and South-east Asia, was not short of action as cyclists completed 20 rounds around a 3.2km circuit at average speeds of close to 44kmh on Sunday.
Part of the circuit was used in the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix less than a month ago, when it was held at the Marina Bay area.
With two laps to go, a group comprising Vingegaard, Froome, Nibali, Simon Geschke and Enric Mas pushed ahead. The Jumbo-Visma rider pulled away from the leading pack with 400m to go and went on to win the race, raising both his arms in celebration.
He said: “In the end, it was a really hard race and luckily I was in the final breakaway. There were lots of different breakaways during the race. I thought it would’ve been a sprint in the end but luckily we got away and I was able to win.”
While Vingegaard was unbothered by the heat, Froome cited Singapore’s humidity as one of the biggest challenges of the race.
The Kenya-born Briton, 37, said: “I just tried to follow the best guys and Jonas when he went ahead... The heat was a big factor today, the humidity is something else.
“It feels like you’re riding on a turbo trainer because you’re just sweating so much and that made the race a lot harder.”
On his first visit to Singapore, Froome also said the event had a “special atmosphere” and that it was nice to see that “people are so passionate about cycling”.
Thousands of cycling enthusiasts and fans gathered at the Grand Stand at The Float @ Marina Bay and around the circuit,with some waving flags while decked out in cycling hats and jerseys.
Local cyclist Yeo Boon Kiak, who competed as part of Team Singapore Cycling Federation, relished the chance to race against the world’s top professionals.
He added: “It’s amazing not just for the cyclists but for the whole community because you see enthusiasts of all different levels, kids, adults, people on steel bikes, on foldies.
“It’s a great event with so much potential and it can be a marquee event for the cycling community.
“Hopefully with the excitement it generates, it can give cycling as a sport enough momentum and we can build on this so the sport can grow at all levels.”