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Tour de France winner Vingegaard given hero’s welcome in Copenhagen

Copenhagen (AFP) – Jonas Vingegaard made a triumphant return to Denmark on Wednesday following his second successive Tour de France victory, as thousands lined the streets to welcome him home.

“Vingegaard!, Vingegaard!, Vingegaard!” echoed from the crowd of tens of thousands gathered in the square outside Copenhagen’s city hall, just as they had a year earlier, when Vingegaard won his first Tour de France title.

“It’s still hard to understand, that I have won the Tour de France two years in a row,” he said during a speech at city hall.

“If someone had told me five years ago, I don’t think I would have believed it, or I know I wouldn’t have,” he added.

Many wore the Danish red and white, while others donned yellow shirts mirroring the jersey worn by the leader of the Tour de France.

Crowds also lined the streets to wave at Vingegaard as he enjoyed his second open-top parade wearing the famous jersey into Copenhagen after landing in a private jet.

The 26-year-old was the first Dane to win the iconic race since Bjarne Riis — who later admitted to doping — in 1996.

“I’m a big fan of yours, and I’m not the only one. More than anything you have won the hearts of all Danes, and we are so proud of you,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a speech.

Vingegaard, who hails from the small village of Hillerslev and worked in a fish market as a teenager, then stepped out on the balcony of the city hall to wave at the roaring crowd.

“He is amazing, he has won two times now and hopefully he takes number three next year,” Kenneth Nielsen, a teacher who said he drove 300 kilometres to come welcome the cyclist home, told AFP.

During his speech at Copenhagen’s City Hall, Vingegaard conceded that he at times had doubted himself during the race this year, and his humble persona strikes a chord with many Danes.

“It’s not just because of what he can do, it’s also because of who he is,” Anita Lynge, another teacher, said as she praised the rider’s down-to-earth personality.

On Sunday, Vingegaard crossed the finish line after the 21-day race 7min 29sec ahead of Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar, the champion in 2020 and 2021.

His winning margin was the largest since 2014 when Italian Vincenzo Nibali won by 7min 39sec.

More than a million people, in the country of some 5.8 million, tuned in to watch the final stage of the race, according to broadcaster TV2, which recorded a peak of over 1.2 million viewers across its digital and television broadcast for the final stretch on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

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