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ALICANTE, Spain (VN) — The imminent arrival of Tom Dumoulin to Jumbo-Visma sent shockwaves around the peloton. With the presence of the Dutch superstar, a guarantee in any grand tour he starts, the team has leapfrogged into the elite of the peloton.
With his high-profile entrance, Jumbo-Visma suddenly has a very new problem. On a roster already bulging with ambitious captains, team brass will now face the task of keeping everyone happy.
It’s a good problem to have, but one that Jumbo-Visma management knows they will have to handle with care.
“We have a challenge to make a plan for our leaders,” said Jumbo-Visma sport director Addy Engels. “It’s a challenge to make a really good year plan for everybody, with big goals.”
Jumbo-Visma was already celebrating its franchise-best season when the blockbuster Dumoulin transfer was confirmed last week. In just a matter of a few short years, Jumbo-Visma’s bet on its homegrown talent, from Steven Kruijswijk and Primoz Roglic to Dylan Groenewegen and George Bennett, has paid off handsomely. Add Wout Van Aert this spring, coupled with the imminent arrival of Dumoulin, and the Dutch lineup is suddenly overflowing with captains.
The big question and test for Jumbo-Visma going into 2020 will be creating racing calendars to keep all of its respective leaders happy.
Engels said it’s a good problem to have.
“It’s a luxury,” Engels said during a break at the Vuelta a España. “That will be one of the big challenges in the off-season to discuss and to make a plan so everybody is motivated. So they will have their goals, and will be happy and motivated to chase those goals.”
Cycling history is littered with teams that have had a bounty of talent, only to see it squandered with a toxic mix of ego and ambition. Other teams have succeeded in finding balance and producing victories across the entire season.
In today’s peloton, teams such as Deceuninck-Quick-Step and Team Ineos have deftly balanced the ambitions of its stars with the demands of the racing season. Other teams, with Movistar coming to mind, have discovered how challenging it can be to keep a full quiver of talented and ambitious captains all happy and racing together under the same roof.
Engels said Jumbo-Visma management will huddle with riders during the coming off-season to map out the racing program for 2020. He pointed out, however, that there were already consultations within the group before management moved ahead with the idea of signing Dumoulin.
“Of course [there will be discussions] but there have been talks with our leaders now,” Engels said. “Not only for the GC, but also for Dylan. This [signing Dumoulin] is not something you do without notice.”
Dumoulin’s arrival will change the calculus inside Jumbo-Visma in two ways: first, it will reshuffle the GC hierarchy. Kruijswijk and Roglic both had career-first podiums this year, and will want their chances next season. Bennett is also a rising GC force, and won’t be happy with riding in the domestique role in every race he starts. The team will have to make some decisions and there might not be enough room to keep everyone happy. Roglic’s contract is up in 2020, while Kruijswijk and Bennett are both signed on through 2021.
Dumoulin, a Giro winner in 2017, is viewed by many as the singular rider who has the horsepower and experience to take on the Tour de France stranglehold held by Team Ineos.
Dumoulin’s arrival will add pressure on the team to try to balance the needs of sprinter Groenewegen and the support a rider like Dumoulin or Roglic might want in order to make a full charge for the Tour de France. This year, the team successfully thread the needle, winning stages with Groenewegen in the mass gallops as well as hitting the podium with Kruijswijk.
With new rules limiting Tour rosters to eight starts, most major GC teams have opted to leave sprinters at home in order to build an entire team around one or two GC leaders. Groenewegen is also off contract in 2020, so it will be interesting to see if Jumbo-Visma can return to the Tour next year with both a fully supported sprinter, with at least one lead-out man, and a full fleet of GC riders.
But as Engels said, it’s not a bad problem to have. The team is bursting with new-found confidence and momentum going forward. Backed by sponsors that assure the team’s longterm future, but also give it the pocketbook to sign top-level quality like Van Aert and Dumoulin, the team is moving toward the topping of the WorldTour pecking order.
Jumbo-Visma already boasted world-class sprinters, classics riders, time trialists and grand tour podium contenders. The arrival of Dumoulin gives the team even more depth.
“We are trying to build our team to be able to achieve the highest goals in the sport,” Engels said. “With Tom coming to the team next year is an improvement. We have to keep going, and we have to keep improving. The moment you think you have built a team and you can sit and wait for the wins, well, that’s when you need to keep moving.”