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ALPE D’HUEZ, France (VN) – Jumbo-Visma‘s firework had a slow fuse Thursday.
Twenty-four hours after delivering one of the most dramatic Tour de France stages of recent memory, the Dutch crew shut down the race on the roads toward Alpe d’Huez in stage 12’s Alpine “queen stage.”
“After yesterday being so hard we wanted a more straightforward day and to look for opportunities to see if we sensed any weakness,” Jumbo-Visma climbing ace Sepp Kuss told VeloNews atop the Alpe. “On the last climb we just kept it status quo and set a rhythm that was hard to attack from.”
Kuss gave GC leader Jonas Vingegaard his wheel multiple times as the race exploded into a flurry of attacks in the final bends of the Alpe.
The Danish yellow jersey and his GC nemesis Tadej Pogačar proved inseparable in a return to the rhythm of the race’s first 10 stages.
“I don’t think there is any weakness in Pogačar,” Kuss said. “This is a good climb for him and he’s super strong, he recovered well from yesterday. He’s still fighting so he’s always a danger.”
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The speculation station buzzed with talk of Jumbo-Visma plotting to put a nail in Pogačar’s GC ambition on Thursday’s triple hors categorie climbing stage.
The blitzing attacks on the Galibier and Granon that uncoupled the defending champion on Wednesday were replaced by a seven-rider rampart built around Vingegaard and his yellow jersey.
“You never know with Pogacar,” Jumbo-Visma workhorse Steven Kruijswijk said. “We’re really happy that we kept Jonas up there – we try to defend the advantage he has now on GC, and if possible we try to extend.”
🔜 Approaching the final climb of the day.
Primoz, Wout, Stevie, Sepp and Tiesj are still surrounding Jonas.
The gap to the breakaway is five minutes.
🏁 35km. pic.twitter.com/IVIM5fFqup
— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) July 14, 2022
Pogačar bounced back to his sizzling self on the Alpe with some stinging attacks, but couldn’t shake Jumbo-Visma, yet.
A series of breakaway stages through the close of the Tour’s second week will see Jumbo-Visma shoring up its walls in anticipation of a Pyrénéan triplet at the start of week three.
“We’re only on stage, what is it, 12? And it already feels a bit like the third week – you can sense the fatigue in everybody. It’s gonna be really tough in the third week,” Kuss said.