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Tour de France

Jumbo-Visma to play defense in Tour de France’s first mountaintop test

Dutch squad looking to keep controlling race with no plans to test opponents just yet.

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Jumbo-Visma is planning to remain in the driver’s seat during the first summit finish of this year’s Tour de France on Tuesday – but don’t expect them to press the accelerator just yet.

The team has used its powerhouse fleet of domestiques to control the race so far in this year’s Tour de France, keeping GC contenders Primož Roglič and Tom Dumoulin sitting comfortably aboard the Jumbo express and on the same time as the likes of Egan Bernal, Tadej Pogačar and Thibaut Pinot.

With the Tour set to turn skyward with a mountaintop finish atop Alpine ski resort Orcieres-Merlette Tuesday, Jumbo-Visma is planning to keep giving its leaders an easy ride.

 “We are in front, and we want to ride in front, we want to stay out of trouble,” sport direct Grischa Niermann said before the stage Tuesday morning. “We have a really strong team here to do so and on the moments that we think that that is necessary, we will do that. Today, tomorrow and the next three weeks.”

The 7.1-kilometer haul to the line Tuesday has been touted as bringing a possible GC shakeup, but Niermann isn’t planning for his leaders to rev their engines too hard so early in the race, and is instead waiting for the prime opportunity to strike.

“We are looking to ourselves. The Tour is long it’s still almost three weeks [to go],” he said, adding that he has no plans to put the hammer on the swathe of GC riders nursing bumps, bruises, and niggles from recent falls or injuries.

“This is only the first uphill finish,” Niermann said Tuesday. “We look to ourselves, and we are strong enough to make the difference on the days that we think it’s going to happen. It’s not the hardest stage of this Tour, or the hardest final climb.

“Of course, some teams will try to make the difference, and there will be differences, but I think they won’t be very big.”

Julian Alaphilippe goes into Tuesday’s stage with the yellow jersey, and Niermann is happy for Deceuninck-Quick-Step to retain the responsibility of the race leader’s team, easing the pressure on his eight.

The climb to Orcieres-Merlette facing Alaphilippe, Roglič, and Dumoulin on stage 4 is short and steady enough to leave Alaphilippe with a shot of retaining his race lead. And while Niermann believes the climb will offer an “opportunity to test the legs and to see how the opponents are doing,” don’t expect Roglič and Dumoulin to be trying too hard for full marks just yet.

“The first weekend was very important to get through well, especially with the rainy tricky stage on Saturday,” Niermann said. “I think we survived. We are up there with our two GC contenders Tom and Primož. Alaphilippe is in the yellow jersey, and he has a strong team – that’s a good situation for us.”