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SAINT-ÉTIENNE, France (VN) – The Tour de France can irreversibly change in the blink of an eye.
On stage 13 of the Tour de France Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) crashed on a not-too-difficult corner after a rider in front of him appeared to slam on the brakes.
Narrowly missing the fall was a gaggle of Jumbo-Visma riders including race leader Jonas Vingegaard. It was a timely reminder of how precarious a race lead can be and that Jumbo-Visma cannot relax for even a second, even if they do have a relatively comfortable lead in the overall standings.
“Today we saw it. Caleb Ewan on the corner to the left and we were just behind. Every day is an important day and we have so many hard days to come. This is just the beginning,” Jumbo-Visma director Merijn Zeeman told VeloNews as he walked towards the podium to meet Vingegaard after stage 13.
As well as concentration, experience will be key as the Dutch team looks to see out the race through the intermediate stages and then the all-important Pyrenees next week. Zeeman has ensured that his riders have put their commanding performance on the Col du Granon stage to the back of their minds as they focus on the task at hand.
“We enjoyed it in the evening after that stage, because it was a day to be proud of, but then the day after we were already focussed on Alpe d’Huez. Now it’s about the coming days but luckily we have a lot of experience. There’s still so much to come in the Tour. There are no easy days, today everyone has a different objective. The team is going well and Jonas is very strong. We are very confident,” he said.
Jumbo-Visma has been on the losing and winning end of grand tours in recent years. They never extinguished Tadej Pogačar’s chances of winning the 2020 Tour de France and the Slovenian made them pay heavily on the final time trial when he overtook Primož Roglič in the Planche des Belles Filles time trial.
The team finished second to Pogačar again in 2021, with Vingegaard, and while Roglič has three straight wins in the bag at the Vuelta a España, the Tour is the holy grail for this team. With Pogačar on the ropes but still in contention after the Alps, the Jumbo-Visma squad will know that there is still no margin for error.
“We have the experience of losing the Tour on the last day and we have won three grand tours so we know that we have to stay focused until the last day. We keep our feet on the ground and we expect everything.”
In the past Vingegaard’s Achilles heel has been his ability to deal with pressure. The team noted that during last year’s Tour de France and looked to dissipate that for as long as possible before it was clear that the Dane was the squad’s only real hope for GC after Roglič took a heavy fall and lost time.
According to Zeeman, the 25-year-old is ready to handle everything that comes with leading the world’s biggest bike race.
“It’s about his experience too. Last year he was good until the last day, and he knows that he can do it. He also knows that he can handle it. He has the experience, and of course, he’s been in the team for some years with Primož and Wout van Aert and these guys give him confidence.”