Vegard Stake Laengen: Tour de France stage wins a result of collective hard work at UAE Team Emirates

This week's column from the UCI World Tour team comes after two stage victories at the world's most famous race

Vegard Stake Laengen is part of the UAE Team Emirates lineup competing at the Tour de France. Courtesy UAE Team Emirates
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Alexander Kristoff winning the first stage of the Tour de France was a huge joy for the whole team. Even though Kristoff wasn’t the favourite, we all knew if he was in the right situation and feeling good that he could do it.

He has so many victories and so much experience in these situations that he is a rider who is capable of anything when on a good day. We were all buzzing after he won the stage. I've known him and raced with him for many years. We are both Norwegian so you could say that we have a special bond because we speak the same language.

The team was very excited as this is the first yellow jersey since the team started and it’s been such a journey to get to this point.

We couldn’t celebrate too much because it was only Day 1 and we know we have a long way to go until the last day in Paris but it lifted the spirits of everyone. Alex made a speech at the dinner table and on Stage 2, we had the honour of protecting the yellow jersey. That is a big moment for any cyclist.

With the circumstances in the world right now, the season has been a real rollercoaster. As a team, we remained optimistic during lockdown and hopeful that the 2020 season would resume.

This year is a bit different without the fans. They are still there, just at a distance. You miss signing autographs and giving the kids our empty bottles, but the most important thing is the racing and that is as good as ever. This victory comes after a lot of work and focus which started many months ago. With 20 wins for the team this season, I think it’s fair to say that all the hard work is paying off now.

At the start of the first stage of the Tour, the atmosphere was a little bit nervous and tense before the race, which is totally normal before the start of a big Tour, and especially the Tour de France.

The Covid-19 situation has heightened that tension but as an athlete you try to only focus on performance and that’s what we do when we are in race mode. I’m sure there was some doubt in most people’s minds about whether the level of cycling would be affected after months of no competitive racing.

But I can confirm we’ve been full gas every day and the level is higher than ever. The victory by Alexander has been a great boost but we know the Tour is three weeks long and we must continue to work hard.

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Tadej Pogacar grabs Tour de France stage win - in pictures

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Tadej Pogacar, our leader, has a real opportunity to do well here at the Tour and the guys are really motivated to support him. His calm and positive attitude really brings out the best in all those around him and his hard work was rewarded when he won the ninth stage, his first in the Tour de France. It was another memorable moment for the team.

He also finished second in Stage 4 with four mountain passes to tackle, plus the first category final climb.

My job for the Tour is to work for Pogacar. That means keeping him safe and out of the wind, going back to the team car to get water bottles for him or stopping with him if he has a puncture.

My main goal is to arrive safely in Paris! Our Tour has already been quite successful with two stage victories and wearing the yellow, white and green jerseys. We hope to keep that high level all the way through the Tour.