Can numbers stop Tadej Pogačar at the Tour de France? Jumbo-Visma is counting on it
'Our main strength is not trying to fight Pogačar head-to-head:' Jumbo-Visma relying on Roglič-Vingegaard one-two and a squad for all scenarios.
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Can anyone stop Tadej Pogačar at the Tour de France?
Not on their own, they can’t – and that’s according to Pogačar’s closest rivals at Jumbo-Visma.
“Pogačar is clearly the favorite for the Tour de France. Even though we were strong in the Dauphiné, I don’t think the numbers we put out there will really worry a guy like Pogačar,” Jumbo-Visma performance director Mathieu Heijboer told VeloNews.
Double defending champ Pogačar pummeled the spring and is reigning supreme on home roads at the Tour of Slovenia. The 23-year-old’s stunning victory Friday reconfirmed his billing as triple-star favorite for the Tour de France this summer.
Pogačar can time trial, climb, and crush cobbles like the finest specialist in each field.
But what he doesn’t have is the one-two team kick boasted by Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegard.
“Our main strength is not trying to fight Pogačar head-to-head on the last climb. That is going to be very difficult for us and for any rider in the Tour de France,” Heijboer said Friday. “But we have the strength of our team. And that is something we plan to use.”
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Jumbo-Visma’s double threat dominated the final of the Critérium du Dauphiné last weekend. Roglič provided a counter-punch to Vingegaard’s opening blitz for what was an untouchable tag team.
Sepp Kuss, Rohan Dennis and Steven Kruijswijk will pack out Jumbo-Visma’s uphill assault at the Tour to provide Jumbo-Visma its swarm of yellow and black “bees.”
“I’ll have to be at my best to take on Roglič and Vingegaard, Pogačar told Gazzetta dello Sport earlier this week. “The Jumbo-Visma team has improved a lot and are scary on the climbs.”
‘We focus on our team, not Pogačar’
Jumbo-Visma profited from its deep bench before.
When Roglič crashed out early in last year’s Tour, Vingegaard rose to an unforeseen second on GC and the team scooped four stage wins.
“We focus more on what our team can do than on Pogačar,” climbing ace Kuss told VeloNews in a recent call.
“We know Pogačar is the big favorite, but we have options. We have to be confident in our team and look for the opportunities that are there in the race rather than focus on him.”
Super-rouleur Wout van Aert and Tour shortlisters Mike Teunissen and Christophe Laporte give Jumbo-Visma’s captains strength far beyond the mountains.
An opening week riddled with risk opens opportunities for gains and losses on bridges, cobblestones and Ardennes-style stages.
“This year there’s a lot of tricky stages, and we’re super confident in the guys we have for those stages,” Kuss said. “We just want to focus on our strengths with Jonas and Primož and look for the moments as they happen.”
Also read: Is the 2022 Tour the anti-Pog route?
The huge windswept bridge of stage 2 and the Roubaix cobbles of stage 5 means UAE Emirates will need to bring its best brawn to keep Pogačar in position.
“The first week scares me,” Pogčar told Gazzetta.
“There’s the 18km bridge finish in Denmark over the North Sea, there’s maybe echelons and bad weather and then the cobbled stage. It’ll be about survival. Like they say, you can’t win the Tour in the first week but you can lose it. I’ll need a strong team to be alongside me.”
Roglič, Vingegaard, van Aert, Kuss, and Co. will be making that first week hard as possible.