In truth the Tour de France’s three-day Denmark grand depart, which concluded yesterday, was not as action-packed as many had predicted or hoped.
The favourites all emerged unscathed from what was a potentially dangerous wet, slippery time trial prologue in Copenhagen on Friday; the anticipated crosswinds never materialised on Saturday, meaning no one had their legs ripped off; and yesterday’s third stage from Vejle to Sonderborg was a largely tame affair, although Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar did come perilously close to coming down in a mass pile-up 10km from the finish.
To say that the first three days of the 109th Tour have lacked drama or colour or rich storylines would be well wide of the mark, however.
Not since Yorkshire in 2014 have fans turned out at a grand depart in such huge numbers.
Denmark’s towns and hills heaved with spectators, many of them waving Danish flags, as what felt at times like the entire country came out to celebrate the biggest bike race on earth.
They roared on local rider Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) yesterday as he escaped off the front for a second successive day, hoovering up the necessary points to stay in the polka dot jersey. And while he never had a hope of staying away, the Tour has a habit of creating special moments and memories. It did it again.
After Fabio Jakobsen’s emotional sprint victory in Nyborg on Saturday, two years after he had to be placed into a medically-induced coma following a horror crash in Poland, this time it was the turn of the man who triggered that crash, Dylan Groenewegen (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), to receive redemption.
Groenewegen copped a nine-month ban by the UCI for causing Jakobsen to fly into the barriers in Katowice at 80kmh.
That was punishment enough, with many of the opinion the organisers were just as culpable for laying on such a dangerous finish.
Worse was to follow.
Groenewegen and his family were soon targeted by the hate mob, at one stage even receiving a hangman’s noose in the mail which the rider was told was intended for his newborn child.
After coming past yellow jersey holder Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) to win a tight photo finish, Groenewegen was understandably emotional. He collapsed by the finish barriers before being lifted up by his team-mates who proceeded to link arms and bounce around in jubilation.
“This is for my wife and my son, it means a lot,” Groenewegen said later. “It’s beautiful. Not physically but mentally it’s been a hard time of course after all that happened.”
The riders will take a breather today as the circus makes its way over to France.
Telegraph Media Group Limited