Tour de France 2020

Tour de France stage 4 roundtable: Jumbo-Visma flexes muscles at Orcières-Merlette

Should Ineos Grenadiers be worried about Jumbo-Visma's strength at the Tour de France? Will Roglič and his team be disappointed to miss out on the yellow jersey? And how's the GC pecking order looking?

The first summit finish of the Tour de France saw Jumbo-Visma dominating the climb to Orcières-Merlette as they set up Primož Roglič for the stage win.

Ineos Grenadiers was left hanging on the coattails of their rival Dutch team, with Bernal making do with surfing wheels after being left isolated from his teammates. While Roglič took the stage, it wasn’t enough to net him a yellow jersey, with Julian Alaphilippe remaining at the top of the GC.

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If you were Jumbo-Visma, would you want the jersey so early in the race, given the threat of COVID shutting down the race at any moment? And Ineos Grenadiers looked helpless as Sepp Kuss and Wout Van Aert ground away on the front? Should they be worried?

Bernal wasn’t the only GC contender unable to go on the offense against Roglič and his ruthless crew of climbers, with the likes of Richie Porte, Rigoberto Urán, Romain Bardet, and Mikel Landa all left hanging on and hoping to stay in contact. Is this a sign of the racing to come?

Let’s roundtable!

Jumbo missed out on the yellow jersey, with Alaphilippe retaining the overall. Given the threat of the race shutting down early due to COVID-19, would you want the jersey this early?

Alaphilippe remains in yellow, and Jumbo-Visma should be happy about that. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images.
Alaphilippe remains in yellow, and Jumbo-Visma should be happy about that. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images.

Fred Freier (@freddreier): No. I still think it is too early to take the yellow jersey for Jumbo-Visma, since there are still three tricky stages to go until we get our next bonafide GC day. Jumbo-Visma is strong, no doubt, but I do not think they are strong or experienced enough to defend the yellow jersey for 17 straight stages against this cast of GC contenders. As for the race being called off — I still think that teams should race as though the event will make it to Paris. Adjusting the strategy due to the potential for a truncated Tour is, in my opinion, putting the cart before the horse.

Jim Cotton (@jim_c_1985): Many of the GC teams said they are planning to race over three weeks at this year’s Tour, and I think that they will remain true to that. To try to take the race lead after only four stages and attempt to hold it through the rest of the race is to press the “self-destruct” button I would have thought. Leaving Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s gang of beefy rouleurs to tow the race around a few days longer is exactly what Jumbo-Visma would want.

Dan Cavallari (@browntiedan): I don’t think it’s wise to play the game with one eye on the exit. Jumbo-Visma needs to simply assume the Tour will ride through Paris and stick to its strategy. Besides, the longer Alaphilippe wears yellow, the longer the pressure stays on him to defend it. Jumbo-Visma has a strong team and the advantage of being the pursuer rather than the defender.

Should Ineos Grenadiers be worried after today?

Should Bernal and his team be worried after today? Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images.

Jim: Wout van Aert and Sepp Kuss were like a freight train on the summit finish today, totally relentless at the front of the bunch. But the thing that stood out for me was what Ineos didn’t do, which was to accept responsibility to ride. When Van Aert finally blew up and peeled off, Bernal’s two remaining teammates didn’t want to take control on the front, either because of a lack of legs or a tactical call. Whether Ineos is saving its bullets for the final week or not, Jumbo-Visma sure threw out a statement of intent.

Dan: Ineos Grenadiers should worry but not panic. Jumbo-Visma flexed a lot of muscle today and showed what it can do if the team stays healthy throughout the course of the Tour. Bernal was the only one who looked up to the challenge. But again, Ineos as a team has shown it can be patient and deceptive. It’s still too early in the Tour to tell what kind of role Ineos will play in the GC.

Fred: Yes. Ineos Grenadiers was outmuscled by Jumbo-Visma today, both on the slopes of the climb and in the run-in to the finish. Wout van Aert’s pace-setting on the climb blew up both Jonathan Castroviejo and Michał Kwiatkowski, and then Sepp Kuss’ acceleration into the finale distanced Richard Carapaz. In the end, only Egan Bernal could follow Roglič, and even he didn’t have the acceleration for the final sprint. While it’s too early for alarm bells to be going off at Ineos Grenadiers, today showed that they do not have the sheer brawn of Jumbo-Visma. But they do have the brains and the experience.

Do the standings today give an initial indication of the rest of the GC battle?

Roglič leads home the pack – is that a sign of things to come? Photo: Christophe Ena - Pool/Getty Images.
Roglič leads home the pack – is that a sign of things to come? Photo: Christophe Ena – Pool/Getty Images.
Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Fred: It’s too early to tell. Everyone’s legs were strong today, and they were all highly motivated. I don’t actually think that today is a harbinger of what will come in the Pyrenees or the Alps. I expect to see Pinot, Bernal, and Buchmann soaring on the long climbs. Today, for example, does not tell me what will happen on the Col de la Loze. That’s why we will have to watch the race!

Dan: It certainly seems all the big contenders had their hackles raised today, but again, we still seem to be in the observe-and-report phase of the Tour. That might change when we get to the really big climbs, but for now, it’s not really too much of a surprise that we’re seeing some GC-flexing early, given how different this year’s Tour route is from years past. For now, I expect Alaphilippe to hang onto yellow with Jumbo-Visma nipping at his heels. By the end of the first true mountain stage, we’ll have a better lay of the land with other contenders.

Jim: It confirms people’s suspicions as to who was hot and was not in advance of the race, with riders like Pogačar, Pinot, Dumoulin, and Roglič a half wheel ahead of the rest. But the race is won two-and-a-half weeks from now, and a heck of a lot could happen between now and then. Some riders improve through a grand tour, some get ground down. Today was just the first of many potential flashpoints and there’s plenty more to come.