Jumbo-Visma showed his supremacy in the first nine days of the 107th edition of the Tour de France. The yellow-black brigade set the pace of the race more than once, won three stages and has been in possession of the yellow jersey since Sunday.
However, the lead of classification leader Primoz Roglic is small (21 seconds) and shadow leader Tom Dumoulin has abandoned his classification ambitions. Did Jumbo-Visma leave something behind in the first Tour week or did they use the right tactics?
“If you end the week with three stage victories and the yellow jersey there’s not much to haggle over on the final result for the time being”, says co-commentator Stef Clement.
“I expected more from Roglic,” says analyst Danny Nelissen. “If you feel good, you attack, but that didn’t happen.” Clement, too, suspects that there was more in the Slovenian. “Especially on Saturday he could have taken some time if you see the ease with which he parried the attacks of Nairo Quintana and Tadej Pogacar.”
Roglic was also the strongest of the favourites in the ninth stage uphill:
“It looks like he drove very calculating and without attacking himself he took the yellow jersey. That’s actually very clever,” says Clement.
“But if you look at the romance of cycling, the stories of the brave riders who attacked and did great heroics remain. Roglic, on the other hand, just seems very cool and calculating.”
At Jumbo-Visma the cork of a champagne bottle has already gone three times in nine days. Roglic was at the centre of the party once, after having won the fourth stage to Orcières-Merlette. Wout van Aert was twice the fastest in the sprint. The Belgian all-rounder, who took the fifth and seventh stage to his name, also dragged the lead in the mountains several times.
Take another look at the stage victories of Roglic and Van Aert in the carousel and at the header of Van Aert uphill:
The only blemish on the dominance of Jumbo-Visma in the first week is, according to Clement, the loss of Dumoulin in the general classification. “The plan was to go into the third week with two men short in the standings.”
Both Clement and Nelissen think that Dumoulin is relieved of the pressure from the outside world. Clement: “During the interview with Dumoulin after the ninth stage, I thought I saw that he was freed from a pressure he couldn’t cope with. His eyes sparkled again. I think we are now going to see a Dumoulin who can do useful things for the team every day. And that’s what he wants too.”
Nelissen: “The problem at Dumoulin wasn’t just on a conditional level. There was also a lot of uncertainty. He felt worse than the rest. In any case it’s now clear who they’re riding for at Jumbo-Visma, namely Roglic.”
The goal of the Dutch cycling formation has already been pronounced several times by the riders: Roglic has to ride over the Champs-Elysées on Sunday 20th September with the yellow jersey around his shoulders.
“Heaviest part still to come
“They know very well at Jumbo-Visma that the toughest part of the Tour is still to come, especially from Friday until the climbing time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles (Saturday 19th September, ed.). So they probably used a very clever tactic”, said Clement.
“All the energy Roglic has saved up in the first week could probably come out in the third week. Then he rides maybe two minutes away from everyone and then we all say: he has classified that fantastic”
Nelissen also expects the Tour in the Alps to be decided. “A number of arrivals will follow uphill. There you must be good, otherwise you’re the sjaak.”
Click here for the route maps of the stages with uphill finish:
But Nelissen is also a bit worried about the flat stages. “Stage ten in particular is dangerous if they’re riding along the coast. If you fall or lose at a bad time, you don’t come back. You have to sit well in front then.”
Clement shares those concerns. “Wednesday there may be a chance of fans. That could be a spectacle. The day Pogacar was driven at 1.20 minutes, I hadn’t ticked in advance as dangerous either. Something like that can always happen.”
“Even in the Giro he seemed unbeatable
According to Clement and Nelissen, Roglic is the big favourite for the final victory after the first week. The 30-year-old Slovenian knows what it’s like to be in the lead in a big round. This is the third big round in a row that he (temporarily) owns the leader’s jersey, after the Vuelta, which he eventually won, and the Giro of 2019.
“For now, Roglic is the top favorite,” Clement says. “But that’s what we thought after the first week of the Tour of Italy in 2019. He also seemed unbeatable at that time, but he didn’t win because he became less and the competitors only improved”
Nelissen expects Roglic’s biggest competitors to be his compatriots Pogacar and Egan Bernal. Nelissen: “Pogacar is a dangerous customer. He races as we know him: attacking. I think he feels he could win the Tour.”
Clement also sees a serious competitor in 21-year-old Pogacar. “If Roglic could have done something in this first week, I think he should have done something. But we won’t know until Paris if he left something behind. It’s equal on the side of the winner later.”