Jonas Vingegaard made a triumphant return to Denmark on Wednesday following his victory at the Tour de France, as tens of thousands of people lined the streets to welcome him home.
The 25-year-old became the first Dane to win the Tour de France since Bjarne Riis — who later admitted to doping — in 1996 with victory at the weekend.
Crowds of people dressed in red and white, but also yellow, greeted Vingegaard as he enjoyed an open-top parade wearing the famous yellow jersey.
“It’s fantastic and mega moving… It still hasn’t sunk in that I won the Tour de France,” said Vingegaard.
In red and white livery, two Danish Air Force fighter jets escorted Vingegaard’s private plane on its journey to Copenhagen.
“It’s something I couldn’t have imagined. It’s unbelievable,” he added.
Vingegaard’s win will rank highly in the list of Denmark’s best sporting moments, potentially even alongside the shock victory at football’s Euro 1992.
“This is probably the greatest thing that has happened in the history of Danish sport,” 59-year-old Allan Olsen told AFP.
Vingegaard will later return to the Tivoli Gardens — the scene of the pre-Tour presentation which saw 35,000 Danish cycling fans give him a rousing reception — for a celebratory ceremony.
The first three stages of this year’s race were held in Denmark.
The biggest prize in cycling comes after a long road for Vingegaard, who hails from the village of Hillerslev and worked in a fish market as a teenager.
“He was small and he wasn’t winning,” Ole Iversen, who coached Vingegaard when he was a child, told DR television from the tiny Thy Cykle Ring club in the northwest of the country.
On Thursday, Vingegaard is scheduled to continue the celebrations in Glyngore, just 45km from Hillerslev.
More than 10,000 people are expected, six times the village’s population.
“He brought the nation together,” his father Claus said.
The way in which Vingegaard impressively saw off two-time reigning champion Tadej Pogacar raised some questions in a sport long plagued by doping.
Riis’ Tour title 26 years ago was tainted by his doping admission, while another Dane, Michael Rasmussen, was kicked off the 2007 Tour by his team when he appeared set to win.
“We are all totally clean, I can say that for every one of us. I can tell you that straight,” said Vingegaard of his Jumbo-Visma team following the 20th stage last weekend.
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