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The last week’s racing at the Tour has seen the yellow and black jerseys of Jumbo-Visma filling our screens, with Ineos Grenadiers loitering on their wheels. Close behind, teams like EF Pro Cycling, Groupama-FDJ, and UAE-Team Emirates are left hanging on to their coattails.
EF Pro Cycling boss Jonathan Vaughters doesn’t see the two-team dominance on display so far at the Tour de France as a bad thing.
“It’s good to have two big players knocking heads with each other,” Vaughters told Eurosport. “For a team like ours that’s sort of the David in the ‘David and Goliath’ situation, we can sit back and wait for them to beat each other up and then take advantage of that moment where they’re both a little bit tired from battling each other.”
EF Pro Cycling’s wildcard team packs explosive climbing talent and is well placed to wait in ambush and exploit chinks in Jumbo-Visma and Ineos’ armor when the time is right. Led by Colombian trio Daniel Martínez, Rigoberto Urán, and Sergio Higuita, and backed by American pair Neilson Powless and Tejay van Garderen, the team has a handful of aces to play.
With recent Critérium du Dauphiné-winner Martinez hemorrhaging time after two crashes in the second stage and now over four minutes off the GC pace, the team has reverted to “Plan A” for what was arguably their hottest GC prospect.
“Originally our game plan before the Dauphiné with Daní was to not have him ride GC and to allow him to lose some time, because we’ve seen before that he could win out of a breakaway on mountain stages really well,” Vaughters said Wednesday.
“Then, after the Dauphiné, we thought okay, well, now let’s give them a shot at GC. But I guess we’re kind of back to the original plan now.”
Higuita also goes into stage 6 Thursday down on time having let a few seconds slip during the mountaintop test at Orcières-Merlette on Tuesday. The diminutive 23-year-old now sits 41 seconds back on yellow jersey Adam Yates and nearly 30 seconds behind a massed group of GC contenders including veteran teammate Rigoberto Urán.
While two out the team’s three leaders are now down on time, maybe that’s no bad thing.
With dynamic riders like Higuita and Martínez slipping out of the wheels and Urán sitting pretty in the bunch and planning to take “everything day-by-day,” EF Pro Cycling now has options everywhere, whether it be from opportunistic stage wins or tactical GC gambles with Urán and Higuita.
With a tough summit finish on Mont Aigoual ahead on stage 6 Thursday, EF Pro Cycling has aces up its sleeve no matter how Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers dictate the action.
“We look forward to the coming stages and the guys are getting better and better every day,” team director Charly Wegelius said Tuesday. Expect EF to animate.