Primož Roglic was suffering and sent home to recover ahead of Sunday’s sun-scorched stage into Carcassonne as Jumbo-Visma thought forward to the Vuelta a España.
But little did the Dutch team know that Steven Kruijswijk would also book a ticket out of the Tour a few hours later when a heavy crash crumbled the top climber’s shoulder.
Two domestiques down, Jumbo-Visma went from pole position to potential problem in Sunday’s stage 15.
Hindsight is a fine thing, but did Jumbo-Visma make the right move?
Jonas Vingegaard has been left short-handed as his team hunts its long-sought yellow jersey, and Tadej Pogačar is on a mission to unleash carnage on every passing climb.
VeloNews’ editors Jim Cotton and Andrew Hood face off:
Hood: Jumbo-Visma playing it too close to the bone
First off, Jumbo-Visma deserves credit for letting Roglič to step out of the Tour de France early. The team is among the best for putting a rider’s health above all else.
Roglič’s absence, however, will be noted in the looming Pyrénéen trifecta that will decide who wins this Tour de France. Even a hobbled Roglič is still better than a big chunk of the peloton this deep into the race.
The team is in its best ever position to win the Tour since the rise of Tadej Pogačar, and Roglič could have and would have provided much-needed firepower in the upcoming stages, even if was simply the fact of “being there.”
The Tour works in funny ways, and there is never a cruise-control moment. In fact, as soon as a rider or team loses its concentration even for an instant, calamity can come crashing down. Look no further than Sunday. Steven Kruijswijk went home hours after Roglič, and then Vingegaard himself hit the ground. It could have been just as easily sayonara for the Dane.
Jumbo-Visma is doing a few strange things since this Tour started, and the latest was giving Wout van Aert the green light to sprint Sunday at the finale of stage 15. Granted, the energy he used was negligible compared to what he will expend in the Pyrénées, but it was the signal. What would have happened had Van Aert had crashed out? The team is risking a lot for what? Another stage win?
Stage wins are big at the Tour for any team, yet the chance to win yellow is even bigger. This is Vingegaard’s Tour to lose, and it seems Jumbo-Visma is not doing itself any favors by allowing Van Aert chase dangerous and unnecessary sprints or letting Roglič go home to heal.
Vingegaard is young, untested, and may never be in this position again.
What the team did on the road to the Col du Granon was absolutely stunning, but it’s also likely a one-off. Pogačar learned an invaluable lesson that day, one that may well cost him this Tour, but one that he will never repeat.
Jumbo-Visma has its best chance right now to win the yellow jersey. It’s been second two years in a row, but it could still end up three years in a row if the team is not careful.
Pulling Roglič might have been the right thing to do — there are things we don’t know about his condition — and it signals correctly that a rider’s health is paramount.
Yet if winning the yellow jersey is the ultimate goal, it seems odd to send home the team’s second captain packing so early when everything remains so tentatively in the balance.
Jim: Save Roglič for Spain, ‘coz Vingegaard has got Tour de France victory already
What’s better than a Tour de France yellow jersey?
The Tour’s maillot jaune AND the maillot rojo of the Vuelta a España, that’s what.
Sending Roglič home Sunday sets Jumbo-Visma on track for two grand tour objectives that are both well within reach. With 2:22 of a lead and a steely grip on Pogačar’s wheel, Vingegaard roars into the Tour’s third week with more than enough wiggle-room – Roglič or no Roglič.
Even without Roglič, Sepp Kuss, Wout van Aert and Tiesj Benoot give Vingegaard horsepower to match Pogačar and his mountain train of Brandon McNulty and Rafal Majka. Not that Vingegaard may need them – the upstart Dane had the measure of his Slovenian foe through the Alps and couldn’t be broken in their mano-a-mano in the Massif Central.
For Vingegaard to lose yellow would require the type of disaster that Roglič and Kruijkswijk both couldn’t stop. Injuries, crashes and COVID can’t be defended by team depth.
Jumbo-Visma staff insisted to reporters that Roglič would have been dead-weight if he stayed through the final week of the Tour. He was dropped on the roads to Mende and deteriorating, fast.
Roglič knows how to turn seasons around.
A narrow miss at the 2020 Tour and an abandon in 2021 set him on track for two of his three Vuelta a España titles. An early exit from this Tour – even if it was untimely – sets him en route for number four.