SONDERBORG | Three years after his last success in the Tour de France, the Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen chased away the demons of his long suspension by winning the final sprint of the 3rd stage, 172 kilometers long, without making a mistake.
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The BikeExchange-Jayco team cyclist's endless way of the cross is well and truly over. The executioner, always less sympathetic in the eyes of the public, even savored his victory, but after that of his victim. Redemption, forgiveness and a mixture of feelings for the two men.
Groenewegen was the fastest, beating the yellow jersey Wout van Aert by a small gut, a second time second. Another Belgian, Jasper Philipsen, took third place ahead of Peter Sagan, who nudged, and the miraculous Fabio Jakobsen.
A painful path
"It's been a long road," admitted the winner. "Physically, the return was not difficult, but mentally, of course, it was," he said, thanking his father, who will follow him for the three weeks of the Tour de France. “We have always been close. It was great to share this victory with him. »
In January 2021, Groenewegen said he spent some time under police protection due to death threats after Jakobsen's accident. After this difficult period, the peloton does not seem to hold it against him.
While Fabio Jakobsen's victory on Saturday certainly brought back painful memories, the 29-year-old runner didn't take long to turn the page for good on this sad episode. He admitted to having made several mistakes on the second leg and his eighth place was a disappointment that he had not digested.
A successful comeback
Bombarded with three questions in a row, he avoided talking about the terrible fall before disappearing as quickly as his burst of speed at the finish.
Since his return, this is obviously his most beautiful coronation. Groenewegen had gleaned a few lesser bouquets in Slovenia, Saudi Arabia and Hungary, but nothing comparable to a Tour de France stage, the sign of a successful season for both an athlete and his team.
The unloved therefore hangs a fifth stage of the Tour on his record. His first four victories were won between 2017 and 2019, before he crossed the desert.
"All victories on the Tour are special, the one on the Champs-Élysées  in particular", finished Groenewegen.
A Dane at the front
For the story of the day, the Dane Magnus Cort led a solitary ride in front of a peloton who slept on gas. No one wanted to follow him. Even if he could not offer a triumph to the jubilant crowd, the cyclist dressed in the polka dot jersey gleaned the few points at stake to keep his tunic.
With a second second place in 48 hours, Wout van Aert pockets another six bonus seconds and pushes back his main pursuer, Yves Lampaert, to seven seconds in the general classification. Half fig half grape, van Aert seemed a little disappointed even if each day in yellow is worth its weight in gold.
The best operation comes from Tadej Pogacar, who is in third place 14 seconds from the yellow jersey. Main favorite for the final victory, the Slovenian already finds himself in an excellent position by avoiding the pitfalls and preserving his teammates who do not have to ride too early in the Tour.