Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard dismissed Tadej Pogacar's claim that he had been "scared" during their intense stage 9 gravel road battle, where Vingegaard consistently followed Pogacar's attacks. Vingegaard refuted the accusation, implying that Pogacar might not have grasped his strategic approach. "Maybe some people don't understand our tactics but that's their problem," the 27-year-old said quietly. Vingegaard and Pogacar, contrasting rivals, are engaged in a gripping contest for the 2024 Tour title, with newcomer Remco Evenepoel in between them, separated by 1 minute and 15 seconds after the first week.

The Danish rider, along with his Dutch team Visma, has won the last two Tours by employing traditional tactics—waiting for the optimal moment to strike when his opponent is at his weakest. "We only focused on not losing time yesterday," Vingegaard, the 2022 and 2023 champion, stated after Sunday's gravel stage. However, Pogacar and Evenepoel expressed disappointment that Vingegaard did not assist in their attacks. "I would have lost the Tour de France yesterday if I had done that. I'd had a puncture and was riding Jan's (teammate Tratnik) bike," Vingegaard explained at his team hotel in Orleans on Monday.

In contrast to the humble champion, Pogacar, a dynamic Slovenian and crowd favorite, advocates for modern cycling, utilizing high speed and continuous attacks. Vingegaard closely followed Pogacar throughout the first two weeks of the 2023 Tour before overpowering him in the individual time trial and the mountain finish. Vingegaard secured the Tour victory, winning by 7 minutes and 29 seconds. However, he faced serious injuries in March, spending 12 days in the hospital, and is cautiously recovering his full form.

"I've been lucky the first week hasn't been too hard," Vingegaard noted. "I feel much better than expected, but I'm not quite on the form of last year yet." The crash at the Tour of the Basque Country profoundly affected him. "I'm just first of all happy to be alive," he said. "In the race, it makes me a dark horse, not that I mind pressure, but here I'm under no pressure to win. If I lose, life goes on and, as I said, I'm really happy just to be alive now." Nonetheless, Vingegaard is far from relinquishing his pursuit of the 2024 Tour and a potential hat-trick of wins, keeping his focus resolutely on the ultimate prize.