As heard on the Tour Daily podcast, José Been is taking us off the race route for some local historical and cultural context for each stage, from Denmark all the way to Paris.
This is the third and last stage on Danish soil. We start in Vejle, the birth place of Tony Rominger, and ride south to Sønderborg. We are racing on the peninsula of Jutland today which shares a border with Germany and is by far the largest part of Denmark. The rest of the country consists of the three main islands: Seeland (or Zealand), home to Copenhagen, Funen where stage 2 finished, and Lolland. Next to the three main islands there are over 400 smaller islands.
Denmark is a Kingdom led by Queen Margrethe II. At 82 years old, she has been the queen since 1972, which makes this year the 50th anniversary of her coronation. Her oldest son is Crown Prince Frederik the 10th, who is married to Mary Donaldson from Hobart, Australia. The pair met during the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 and had their first child, named Christian, in 2005. His name was known long before he was born because that’s the tradition in Denmark: one generation of Frederiks and the next of Christians. The couple also have a daughter, Isabella, and twins, Vincent and Josephine.
Denmark shares a border with Canada – I bet you didn’t see that one coming. Greenland is an autonomous country that is part of the Kingdom of Denmark. You can compare this to the Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Margrethe II is the head of state of Greenland just as Queen Elizabeth is for Canada.
Back to Vejle, the birthplace of Tony Rominger. Huh, what? Wasn’t he Swiss? Yes but his mother was Danish and his father Swiss. Rominger only turned pro when he was 25 years old. He won the Vuelta a España twice and came second at the 1993 Tour de France only a few weeks after winning the Vuelta, which – back then – took place end of April and early May.
In the 1993 Tour de France Rominger took three wins: two consecutive mountain stages in the Alps and the 48-kilometer-long time trial on the penultimate day. That result saw him move up two places in the general classification, from four to two. But despite taking 42 seconds on Miguel Indurain that day, the gap between the Swiss rider and the Spaniard was far too big. Rominger lost that Tour de France by almost five minutes to Indurain who won his third of five Tour de France titles that year.
It’s Sunday today so let’s go to the church. The main church in Vejle is dedicated to St. Nicolas of Myra, the patron saint of children and seafarers, and the saint we modeled Santa Claus after. The Saint Nicolai church is the oldest building in town, and on the northern wall you will see 23 real human skulls. These are the skulls of 23 robbers executed in a forest nearby.
In Vejle you can also find the bog body of a woman who lived 2,500 years ago on Jutland. Until 2018 she lay in the church, but four years ago, she was moved to the Cultural Museum. The anaerobic conditions and acids of the peat bog near Haraldskær contributed to the body’s excellent preservation. Not only was the intact skeleton found, but so were the skin and internal organs. She was about 1m50 tall, or 4ft11 and 40 years old.
It was common to burn the dead 2,500 years ago. The woman of Haraldskær was found in a bog with her body pinned to the ground by wooden poles. She was covered with branches and her clothes were placed on top of her. This makes scientists presume that she was the victim of a ritual sacrifice or murder as most bodies found in bogs are.