Primož Roglič responded to searing attacks from rivals through Saturday’s eighth stage of the race, but Tom Dumoulin struggled to keep pace with late-stage accelerations and dropped out of the top-10.
“We wanted to shake the tree to see who falls off,” said George Bennett. “We wanted to make it hard.”
Perhaps too hard. Jumbo-Visma went so deep it inadvertently might have upturned its own cart. A rock-solid Roglič kept a firm grip of his second place on GC, just three seconds to Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), who defended yellow.
Seeing Dumoulin move backwards wasn’t part of the plan.
Dumoulin took the final pulls on the Peyresourde, and when Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Emirates) and others attacked, Roglic responded, but Dumoulin struggled to counter. He gave up 2:07 to the top GC rivals, and dipped from fifth to 15th at 2:20 back.
“That wasn’t the plan,” Bennett said of Dumoulin losing time. “Sepp [Kuss] and I weren’t up to standard, and Tom stepped up to fill that role today. Maybe it wasn’t the outcome we fully expected.”
Jumbo-Visma had wanted to keep both Roglic and Dumoulin in GC contention coming out of the Pyrénées, but hectic racing in the final climb up the Col de Peyresourde saw Jumbo-Visma’s full-throttle run into some unexpected turbulence.
It was a question mark of how far Dumoulin, who hadn’t finished a grand tour since the 2018 Tour, could go in this Tour. Saturday revealed the team is now all-in for Roglič.
“Dumoulin told us through the radio that he wasn’t good and that he would work for the team,” Bennett said. “We are here to win the Tour de France.”
If there was any question how Dumoulin would race in this Tour, he revealed that he’s a team player, riding Saturday to help Roglič.
“Of course it is not ideal,” said Robert Gesink on losing Dumoulin’s GC position. “On the other hand, Primož has shown that he is very good. And it just goes to show that Tom is a fantastic team player. We all know where Tom comes from, and if he can do this … that only promises a lot for what is yet to come. ”
Going into Saturday’s 141km, three-climb across the Tour’s first hors categorie climb, Jumbo-Visma seemed to have everything under control.
Friday’s big battle in the crosswinds the previous day capped by Wout Van Aert’s second stage win seemed to come back to bite them, however.
Bennett and Kuss, two of the team’s front-line top climbers, were pulling so hard Friday in the crosswinds that neither were at their sharpest once the race hit the Port de Balès, the first hors categorie climb that the peloton has tackled in a grand tour since last year’s Vuelta a España.
Gesink and the surprising presence of Van Aert paced the team up the Balès, but Kuss trailed off the back earlier than anyone expected.
“I was not super-good today. I was suffering after yesterday, but that’s alright. There are a lot of hard days to come,” Kuss said at the finish line. “Friday was a hard day. For me, those are way harder than any mountain stage. Just have a good meal tonight, and get ready for tomorrow.
“I think Tom was happy to do that,” Kuss continued. “Everybody knows where they’re at physically. In the end, we just want to have the yellow jersey in Paris.”
Without Dumoulin as a second GC card to play, at least right now, the team will put its full resources behind Roglic.
The Slovenian was already the first-in-line leader coming into this Tour. Now there is no mistaking it.
“It was tough, but the team has shown again how strong it is,” Roglic said. “When Tom took the lead, it exploded all at once. It’s a good start and we will continue to do our best for the rest of the game to finish as high as possible.”