Tour de France 2020

Analysis: Jumbo-Visma punches Ineos Grenadiers first in early Tour de France fight

Should alarm bells be ringing inside the Ineos Grenadiers team bus? It's still early in the 2020 Tour de France, writes Andrew Hood, but Tuesday's stage 4 showed that Jumbo-Visma has more muscle than the British team.

Jumbo-Visma continues to throttle the 2020 Tour de France, with Primož Roglič finishing off the superb work Tuesday from his teammates in the first mountaintop finale.

So far in this Tour de France, Jumbo-Visma is racing like the old Team Sky/Ineos of ‘Fortress Froome.’

The Dutch team put Wout van Aert on the front and then Sepp Kuss finished it off the job to steam-roll their rivals, setting up Roglič for the win.

“We are sticking to our plan,” Roglič said matter-of-factly after his third career Tour stage win. “We want to have the yellow jersey in Paris.”

Behind the Jumbo-Visma exhibition, defending Tour champion Egan Bernal of Team Ineos Grenadiers found himself isolated in the first mountaintop finish of the 2020 Tour.

Roglič took some time bonuses to move 10 seconds ahead of Bernal on the overall standings.

After seeing Ineos win seven of the past eight editions of the Tour in such dominant fashion, cycling fans are undoubtedly surprised to see the team already on the back foot in the early days of this Tour. Is Tuesday’s finish the sign of a sea change in pro cycling? Is Jumbo-Visma now the 300-pound gorilla in the peloton, and Ineos Grenadiers the flotsam?

Not so fast — it’s still so early in this Tour de France. With this Tour starting hot and fast, and packed with explosive climbs in the first week, Bernal is wisely looking further down the road.

“It’s not good to have a GC rival to take some seconds,” Bernal said. “I have to be patient and we have to arrive to the third week and not lose too much time, and try to recover time on the longer climbs.”

Let’s not forget that this Tour still serves up soaring climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees — the types of long, grinding mountains that cater to Bernal’s high-altitude lungs and slow-burn style. Roglič is undoubtedly a top climber, but he packs a muscular punch, while Bernal is a pure climber built for the Col de la Loze, which comes on stage 17.

Whether Bernal has the troops to send him into battle is yet to be seen. Ineos Grenadiers is a bit scattered right now. Bernal finished safely on the same time as Roglic, but teammate Richard Carapaz couldn’t match the speed, ceding 28 seconds. Michael Kiwatkowski did what he could before peeling off after taking a short pull. With teammate Pavel Sivakov, who crashed twice in the first stage, still struggling, Bernal had to do it by himself in the closing kilometer after Carapaz couldn’t match the brutal pace.

“I didn’t lose time, so that was important, and now we want to try to arrive into the last week where we think it will go better for us,” Bernal said. “It’s not as good for us when the climbs are so short.”

Seeing Bernal without teammates didn’t go unnoticed by his rivals. Yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), who battled Ineos and Bernal last year into the third week, said it’s Jumbo-Visma who is coming out swinging early in this Tour.

“Jumbo-Visma is the strongest team right now,” Alaphilippe said. “They were already flying at the Dauphiné, and we saw it again today. It’s obvious their objective is to win to the Tour, and they are taking the responsibility from the first day.”

Roglic thanked his teammates for the work they’ve done so far by taking the race by the scruff of the neck so early in the race.

Co-captain Tom Dumoulin also rode in with the front GC group, though he admitted he struggled to maintain the explosive pace.

When asked if he was surprised to see Bernal isolated, Roglic said he expects the Tour hasn’t seen the last of them yet.

“A surprise yes or not, this doesn’t change much,” Roglic said of Ineos. “Everything stays the same. They will be strong and show themselves later in the race.”

Are there alarm bells going off inside the Ineos Grenadiers bus? It’s hard to say, because journalists can’t go to the team bus and ask.

Bernal wasn’t giving up much, only admitting that he might have to play a bit of rope-a-dope until the Tour hits the longer, steeper climbs when the course loops back to the Alps in just over two weeks.

“It was really fast today. It was a good climb to see how the GC riders are. I am really happy to arrive with them, because it was a very hard,” Bernal said. “We want to minimize the time in these stages and arrive as fresh as we can in the last week.”

Right now, Jumbo-Visma is racing with the confidence and swagger that Ineos brought to the Tour for nearly a decade. Bernal is hoping a third-week revival will tilt things back in his favor.