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Jumbo-Visma may be trying to play it down, but the Dutch squad is going to the Critérium du Dauphiné with a team that means business.
If that wasn’t enough, they’ll be joined by last year’s Grande Boucle runner-up Jonas Vingegaard, Steven Kruijswijk, Tiesj Benoot, and Christophe Laporte, with Chris Harper rounding out the line-up.
The eight-day race falls into the center of Jumbo-Visma’s Tour de France preparations, sandwiched between two stints at altitude. For this reason, the team is playing down its chances, but its line-up would beg to differ, and the seven-man squad will be favorites to disrupt Ineos Grenadiers’ stranglehold on the race.
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“We think the riders will be okay after a first altitude training and then we want to show ourselves. But winning this Dauphiné is not a goal in itself,” sport director Grischa Niermann said. “It is good preparation for the Tour, which remains our main goal. After the Dauphiné, we’ll go on altitude training, but it is also important to race in the preparation period and then this race comes at the perfect moment.
“I expect Primož and Wout will want to test their form and further improve their race rhythm. Many eyes will be on us, so we will have to race in a smart way.”
Jumbo-Visma struggled at last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné without its big leaders Roglič and Van Aert. Roglič chose to miss the Tour de France tune-up as he saved his energy for a big summer with the Tour, the Olympics, and the Vuelta a España, while Van Aert was forced out of it after undergoing appendix surgery a few weeks earlier.
With a big leader to rally around over the coming week, we can expect a much bigger impact from the team this year.
While Zeeman is playing down the squad’s ambitions for the race, it’s hard to see Roglič not getting stuck into the GC battle — he just has to stay on his bike for the whole race. Roglič’s chances of finally claiming Tour de France success are diminishing each season and the Dauphiné will be the first indication as to how well he’s going.
Fighting for a Tour de France spot
Jumbo-Visma’s Critérium du Dauphiné squad looks like a near-complete Tour de France roster, but that is yet to be decided and the French race could be the sole remaining chance for some to prove themselves ready to make the team for July.
In the past, Jumbo-Visma has been bold and confirmed its full Tour de France line-up at the team training camp in January. It’s a little trickier for the team this year with a wealth of new signings stepping up and making the selection of the final eight a far bigger challenge.
An interview in the Dutch publication Algemeen Dagblad earlier this week with Zeeman indicated that just Roglič, Van Aert, and Vingegaard have their places secured with less than a month to go until the Tour rolls out in Copenhagen.
That leaves the likes of Kruijswijk, Benoot, and Laporte on the Critérium du Dauphiné team fighting for their places at the second grand tour of the year.
There’s some stiff competition with Sepp Kuss, Rohan Dennis, Mike Teunissen, Robert Gesink, and Nathan van Hooydonck all potentially in the running for one of the five remaining spots for the Tour de France.
They’ll be lining up at the Tour de Suisse later this month where they too will be hoping to prove themselves for a place on the Tour team.
With Jumbo-Visma aiming for both yellow and green at the Tour de France, it will need to strike a balance between climbers and the bigger rouleurs.
Roglič is likely to get the bigger support, but the team will need to make sure that Van Aert is afforded some assistance. Even with his massive three stage wins, Van Aert got nowhere near the points tally needed for the green jersey and it’ll take a much more concerted effort to make it.
The next two weeks will be key in deciding who makes the cut and who is cut.