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Thomas and Ineos wary of Jumbo-Visma/Kruijswijk threat

Team Ineos have Dutch rider Steven Kruijswijk in their sights as the Tour de France heads into the mountains

CASTRES, France (VN) — Team Ineos is placing a target on the back of Steven Kruijswijk and Jumbo-Visma.

Of all the men inside the top-10 on general classification, it could be Kruijswijk that poses the biggest threat to the British team.

“Steven is a very strong rider,” said defending champion Geraint Thomas on Tuesday’s rest day. “He could have won the Giro a couple of years ago, he’s been consistent, fifth last year in the Tour and top 10s in grand tours. He’s a big threat with strong riders around him.”

Kruijswijk sits in fourth place overall, 1:27 behind leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step). But he’s just 15 seconds behind Thomas, and 11 seconds behind Egan Bernal.

And Kruijswijk is supported by perhaps the strongest team at this year’s race. Thus far, the Dutch team has dominated the stage wins at this year’s Tour, taking four victories after just 10 stages. Mike Teunissen took the bunch sprint on stage 1; the team scored a team time trial victory on stage 2; Dylan Groenewegen sprinted to victory on stage 7; and yesterday, after the cross-wind madness, Wout Van Aert won a diminished sprint on stage 10.

“Not just this year, but over the last three seasons, Jumbo-Visma developed probably at a faster rate than other team. They are progressive, open, and expansive and definitely focus on the TTT,” said Ineos team boss David Brailsford.

“Jumbo-Visma are doing a terrific tour. Like Geraint said, sometimes when you go for everything, chasing stages, you don’t get everything in the end.”

“We just have one goal,” Thomas added. “If you look at Jumbo-Visma for instance, they are going for stages, and other teams have riders in breaks, but we just have one goal of trying to win the overall.”

On Monday, New Zealander George Bennett slipped out of the overall for Team Jumbo-Visma. The focus now remains on Kruijswijk, the Dutchman who began as the leader of his home team.

Van Aert trained at altitude with Kruijswijk ahead of his first Tour after switching from cyclocross. He projected his team leader and then sprinted to the stage win.

They along with Ineos gained 1:40 minutes in the cross-winds on rivals including Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First) and Jakob Fuglsang (Team Astana).

The Frenchman continues to lead the race, but Thomas sits on top of the classification favorites for the eventual overall win now. He has four seconds on his teammate Egan Bernal, 35 seconds on Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), 52 seconds on Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team), and 1:21 minutes on Pinot.

“Yesterday was a great day, and it shows you need to be attentive and on the ball. Nine out of 10 [times] nothing can happen, but you have to be attentive,” said Thomas.

“Like Dave said, myself and Egan in second and third is a great situation. It’d be better to be closer to Alaphilippe, and not be one minute behind, but we are in a great spot. Getting time yesterday was a real good bonus.”

The team expects Alaphilippe, who placed 33rd and 1 hour and 28 minutes in 2018, to lose time in the big mountains to come.

“We didn’t mind Alaphilippe gaining a few seconds in the first week here and there, but obviously you have to be more and more aware of him as the race goes on,” Thomas continued.

“There are some big days ahead in the mountains and by the second race day we’ll know more. If he increased his advantage it’ll be a concern.”