Jumbo-Visma’s top trainer is pushing back against doubters of his team’s performance at the Tour de France.
The Dutch crew won six stages and the yellow, green, and polka dot jerseys in a display of total dominance not seen for decades.
Yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard and green jersey Wout van Aert were asked by reporters in the race’s final weekend whether the world should believe the team was winning clean in what has become a ritualistic end-of-Tour questioning.
“I put my hand in the fire for everyone in this team,” Jumbo-Visma head of performance Mathieu Heijboer told VeloNews.
“My question back would be what ‘ you need from us to prove that?’ Because we are now performing at a high level and are the best team in the Tour de France, is that a reason to suspect us?”
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Heijboer has been central to Jumbo-Visma’s six-year evolution. He’s the man that masterminds training strategies for riders like Vingegaard, Van Aert, and Vuelta a España star Primož Roglič.
The Dutch coach guided Stephen Kruijsiwjk to third in Paris in 2019 and helped lead Jumbo-Visma’s long leveling up to grand tour powerhouse Team Sky/Ineos.
“We’ve not come from nothing. We have been on the podium of the Tour de France for the last four years now,” Heijboer said in a call last week.
“Our team has been gradually growing and growing. And at some points really good riders also want to come to our team like Tony Martin, Rohan Dennis. It’s not like a sudden appearance of Jumbo-Visma being good at the Tour de France.”
‘What do you need from us?’
Van Aert hit back hard when questions came his way after stage 20 of the Tour, railing at the need to justify a performance he said came through commitment and sacrifice.
“We work super hard for this,” Van Aert said. “Cycling has changed and I don’t like it that we have to keep on replying on these things.”
Heijboer pedaled through the darkest times of pro cycling at the start of this century during his stint with Rabobank (the set-up that went on to become Jumbo-Visma) and then Cofidis.
Since those dope-addled 2000’s, police raids and pointed questions became almost as much a Tour tradition as the Champs-Élysées sprint.
Chris Froome and Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford were barraged by blowback when they made the maillot jaune their own. Tadej Pogačar saw a series of queries about physical and mechanical doping come his way when he romped to yellow last year.
“With the history of the sport, it’s logical that people are asking questions,” Heijboer said. “But on the other hand, Wout van Aert for example, he’s 27. In the darkest era of cycling, he was maybe 10 or 12, he has nothing to do with that. So now he has to answer questions, because two generations before him, people made mistakes.”
Heijboer witnessed the Rabobank/Jumbo-Visma evolution firsthand after becoming part of the staffing setup in 2008.
The team’s ID shift to LottoNL-Jumbo in 2015 saw the Dutch squad switch direction and pour investment and expertise into training, nutrition, equipment, and strategy.
Jumbo-Visma developed its own nutrition app, bought a service course the size of an international airport, took a pioneering approach to altitude training, and is open in its use of the controversial ketones supplement.
“I think we are pretty transparent to everyone. Journalists are validating their questions just because we are riding fast. They are validating themselves by saying ‘well, I asked the question, that lets me free,’” Heijboer said.
“But, if you put a little bit more effort into how we are working and what we are doing as a team, then it makes no sense to ask those questions. There’s not anything that we are doing wrong.”
Pogačar pushed back at publishing his data when he was defending his 2021 performance. Team Sky shared snippets of Froome’s files in 2015.
“I can use a lot of excuses or arguments, but I’d like to know from those journalists who ask those questions ‘what do you need from us?’” Heijboer asked.