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This year’s Tour de France could be the year Jumbo-Visma becomes the new Ineos.
Boasting a roster stacked with arguably the hottest riders in cycling right now in Primož Roglič, Wout van Aert and Sepp Kuss, Jumbo-Visma should have been going into the Tour with the wind at its sails. However, the sheen was taken off their awesome August in one disastrous day at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month when crashes left Roglič battered and bruised, and co-leader Steven Kruijswijk unable to start in Nice this weekend.
On the flipside, Team Ineos was not to full strength through the Dauphiné and Tour de l’Ain as it carried the weight of off-form Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. With both now axed from the Tour team, and Giro d’Italia champion Richard Carapaz drafted in, the British team goes into the Tour with stronger legs and a new, fresh face – leaving the balance of power between the two superteams finely balanced.
Will Jumbo-Visma and its fleet of powerful climbers be able to repeat their early-August feats when it counts most? Is Roglič fully recovered from his injuries? And will superstar Colorado boy Kuss be able to live up to the hype in his Tour debut?
There’s no doubt about it, whether they’re winning or losing, expect Jumbo-Visma to be in the spotlight from here on in.
- No, Roglič isn’t peaking too soon
- Kuss ‘leaving personal ambition at home’ for debut Tour de France
- What to know: Ineos Grenadiers’ Tour de France team
Tom Dumoulin, Primož Roglič, Sepp Kuss, George Bennett, Wout van Aert, Tony Martin, Robert Gesink, Amund Grøndahl Jansen
Even without Kruijswijk, the Dutch team boasts one of the most powerful eight in the Tour de France, pushing, if not surpassing, Team Ineos Grenadiers for strength and swagger.
While Roglič only has one grand tour title to his name, he’s looked almost unbeatable in the restarted season to date, knowing when to play his cards and knowing when to sit in the comfort of his Jumbo-Visma express mountain train.
However, his Dauphiné injury and recovery battle could rest heavy in his legs. Reports conflict as to how the Slovenian is faring, with the rider himself saying “right now I am not feeling my best” earlier this week, and the team telling AD.nl the very next day that “he is doing fine” and back to full training. Whether he is fully fit for Saturday or not, the last week will be far from the preparation the Slovenian had been hoping for.
Next to Roglič is the team’s new star, Tom Dumoulin. With a Giro d’Italia victory and second-place in both the Giro and Tour to his name, the Dutchman knows what it takes to win over three weeks.
Dumoulin looked nearly back to his best through the Tour de l’Ain and Dauphiné after 14 months away from racing with injury and illness. Provided his final preparations at altitude in Tignes went to plan this past week, we could see him back to the level that saw him rise to grand tour glory in 2017 and 2018, and a valuable sidekick for Roglič and second card for his team.
Away from the team’s leaders, Jumbo-Visma’s Tour team has form and momentum coming out of its eyeballs.
Coloradan Kuss has proven himself to be one of the best climbers in the world through August’s pre-Tour race block, and Wout van Aert has shown he can do almost anything he turns his eye to, whether it be winning on the gravel climbs of Strade Bianche, the last-ditch sprint of Sanremo, or a reduced bunch kick at the Dauphiné.
The pair make for two significant aces up Jumbo-Visma’s yellow and black sleeve.
While Kuss has been commanding all the attention in the past month, George Bennett has also been showing himself to be one of the top mountain domestiques out there right now, floating his way through the mountains at the Tour de l’Ain while having the versatility to take second-place at Il Lombardia.
Together with ever-reliable and massively-experienced Robert Gesink, Kuss and Bennett make up a formidable fleet of helpers for Roglič and Dumoulin, more than able to win stages themselves, and able to “do an Ineos” with their collective strength in the mountains.
It’s not all about the climbers though.
Jumbo-Visma rounds out its roster with Amund Grøndahl Jansen, the late replacement for Kruijswijk, and the massive motor and wise head of Tony Martin. Despite being the least-known name on the team, former Norweigan national champion Grøndahl Jansen has two Tours already to his name and a big engine to help Martin control the bunch.
The post-COVID season was going great for Jumbo-Visma – until it wasn’t. The crash-riddled fourth stage of the Dauphiné turned its trio of leaders into a duo, and left Roglič reeling and in a late battle for form.
While the team may have the collective strength to make do without Kruijswijk, the question mark over their Slovenian star could prove pivotal in how the Tour de France plays out. Roglič won’t be able to cruise through a snoozey opening week of sprint stages as he nurses himself back to health, and needs to be on the ball from as early as the mountains of Nice in stage 2.
The intrigue around Roglič stretches beyond the masses of road rash and bruises he picked up in the Alps earlier this month.
The 30-year-old was last on the type of imperious form he’s shown in the past month shortly before the wheels came out from underneath his Giro d’Italia campaign in 2019, where he flew high for two weeks before losing his grip on victory to cling on for a consolation third place. While Roglič and his team are undoubtedly older and wiser after scooping victory at the Vuelta a España last summer, the memory continues to nag at the back of the mind.
It’s not all about the Slovenian though – Dumoulin looked nearly back to peak form earlier this month, and if he continues his upward trajectory, will have the legs and the experience to mark himself as one of the top contenders behind five-star favorites Roglič and Bernal.
If there’s any year that Team Sky / Ineos / Ineos Grenadiers is going to be unseated from its Tour de France throne, it’s this one.
Three weeks ago, the balance of power was firmly shifted toward the dominant Dutch outfit. However, with Ineos bolstered and Jumbo-Visma battered, the scales could tip one way or the other in the 21 days of explosive, ruthless racing on tap for this year’s Tour.
Buckle your seatbelt, it should prove one heck of a watch.