Their road to the yellow jersey will take an alternate path, however, as the Dutch powerhouse promises to race in a different way following its stunning final-hour loss last summer.
Instead of trying to bulldoze the Tour and everyone in its path, the team is deferring that responsibility to others to share the workload.
“Going into the Tour de France, Tadej Pogačar and UAE Team Emirates are the top favorites,” Grischa Niermann told VeloNews. “I don’t see ourselves as the biggest favorites to control the race start to finish. That is up to another team.”
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Those comments reveal a subtle but important change in direction from the Dutch powerhouse.
Last summer, Jumbo-Visma took the yellow jersey by the scruff of the neck, only to see it unravel from their hands in the stunning, final-hour reversal in the climbing time trial at La Planche des Belles Filles.
In 2020, Jumb0-Visma rode a near-perfect Tour and eliminated defending champion Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) in the second week. Yet in the penultimate stage, Pogačar pulled off one of cycling’s most dramatic comebacks, and his time trial victory stung everyone inside the Jumbo-Visma organization all winter long.
Tadej Pogacar becomes the first Slovenian to win the Tour de France after a incredible time trial win over countrymen Primoz Roglic. What a 2020 Tour that will go down in history as one of the greatest Tours. pic.twitter.com/JpK7Jg8oNf
— The World of Cycling (@twocGAME) September 20, 2020
The team took some important lessons from the upset, and as Roglič builds his Tour form in a series of high-altitude training camps, sport director Niermann said the team will take a different tack during the 2021 Tour.
“With hindsight, looking back, we should have done some things differently,” he said in a telephone call. “In the Tour, we were convinced that the gap to Pogačar was enough to win the race. We applied the tactics that we thought would get us the victory, but we were defeated.”
Niermann was coming down from an extended altitude training camp in Spain’s Sierra Nevada with its core Tour de France riders when he took a call from VeloNews.
Roglič remains at the center of the team’s Tour ambitions, and will not race before the Tour. With the Olympics another big goal for the Slovenian, the team is keeping Roglič out of racing since the Ardennes to keep him fresh ahead of the Tour-Olympics double.
(https://t.co/d2nXwBhcP0): #Tour de France : Le dépit des Jumbo-Visma après le tremblement de terre #Pogacar : Près de trois semaines de maîtrise totale pour ça….. https://t.co/ovdp8dFTiV pic.twitter.com/w7BvnQcRSR
— Titrespresse.com (@titrespresse) September 19, 2020
Some of the team’s other Tour-bound riders will race at the Critérium du Dauphiné starting this weekend, including Sepp Kuss, Jonas Vingegaard, and Steven Kruijswijk.
The squad will reconvene at another pre-Tour altitude camp in Tignes, France, before heading to the June 26 start in Brest in France’s Brittany region.
“It was hard to accept, but everyone is now looking forward,” Niermann said. “We want to win, and we want to get the best possible result. That doesn’t change. We will take it day by day, and we will see what the tactics of his opponents are and what they are doing.”
The team will be trying to pile early pressure on UAE Team Emirates and Ineos Grenadiers to share the workload, with the hope that it means fresher legs for Roglič in the final throes of the race.
Jumbo-Visma’s tactics might change a bit in 2021, but the goal remains the same — the yellow jersey.