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Tour de France

Jumbo-Visma keeps everyone guessing with Tour de France and Giro d’Italia leadership question

'Of course, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Vingegaard goes to the Tour but it’s not decided yet,' says Zeeman.

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Jumbo-Visma is usually one of the first teams to announce rosters for grand tours, but the squad seems intent on drawing out the process for a while yet, even though a hint was dropped that Jonas Vingegaard would be at the start of next year’s Tour de France to defend his title.

Vingegaard won the 2022 Tour de France after dethroning the two-time champion Tadej Pogačar in impressive fashion. The Dane was not present in Paris to see the unveiling of next year’s race, but he has hinted in the press that he is ready to return.

However, his Jumbo-Visma management has remained shy on facts and details, only telling VeloNews that “ it wouldn’t be a surprise if Jonas goes to the Tour.”

The telling question for the Dutch team is really about leadership and whether it will be solely placed on Vingegaard’s shoulders or shared once more with Primož Roglič.

The logical choice would be to post Roglič to the Giro d’Italia, where the Slovenian could snaffle up 70-plus kilometers of time trialing and challenge Remco Evenepoel for the maglia rosa.

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One of the drawbacks with that plan is that it could potentially weaken a team built around Vingegaard, or rob Jumbo of a legitimate plan B if the Dane crashes or gets sick. With so much at stake, and Roglič’s importance when it came to cracking Pogačar at the Tour this year, it’s understandable as to why the Dutch team hasn’t made concrete plans just yet.

“We don’t decide in October,’ Merijn Zeeman told VeloNews after leaving the Palais des Congres in Paris.

“It’s a very intensive process of planning and discussion with the coaches and the riders. We really look into every detail and then we make decisions. We don’t decide in October. Of course it wouldn’t be a surprise if Jonas goes to the Tour, but it’s not decided yet. I want to talk with him, the performance team, and all the coaches, and then we’ll pick the best program for him,” he added.

When asked if Roglič could take aim in the Giro d’Italia, while Vingegaard focused on the Tour, the team manager gave nothing away.

“It’s a possibility, but there’s also a possibility that they both go to the Tour,” he said.

“It’s not that I don’t want to say, it’s just that our qualities are to make plans, and prepare. We discuss it with a lot of people and all these things are on the table. What’s for sure is that we want to win the biggest races in the world. That’s the grand tours, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. They are very important for us. We just need time for this planning process.”

Even when probed on whether the team would definitely send a proven GC rider to the Giro, Zeeman stuck to the script.

“It’s possible, but it’s also possible that we use it to give younger talent or that we send a rider like Wilco Kelderman. If I’d say one thing, it’s that winning the Tour de France is the number one priority and we start with the number one plan for that race,” he said.

“The Tour suits both Jonas and Primož. I think that Primož can be explosive, like, Pogačar but he’s also good on the long climbs. For Jonas, it’s the same, and you could see that in 2021 and 2022. For all three of those riders it’s a good route. I don’t see differences if you just look at the route for the favorites.”

The team also needs to factor in Wout van Aert’s ambitions, although that should be less of an issue given the Belgian rider’s dominance in the points classification and his ability to both race his own race and demonstrate loyalty in the mountains. There is huge depth on the team, with several major signings made over the transfer period, so unlike most teams Jumbo could genuinely challenge for both the Giro and the Tour de France.

The question for Zeeman and the rest of the management team is whether they can balance all of those ambitions with the necessity to beat Pogačar at the Tour de France. It’s a tough dilemma, but a good one to have.