Jumbo-Visma and its daring ‘pursuit of perfection’
Analysis: Jumbo-Visma packs the firepower and experience to target grand tours and monuments, but can the team pull it off?
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Now that Jumbo-Visma is at the top of the cycling world, the Dutch-backed team isn’t going to rest on its laurels.
Quite the contrary.
Coming off its most successful season yet, the team is raising the bar even higher in 2023.
Sketching out its ambitions for the upcoming season, the team is aspiring to win the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and at least one of the northern monuments.
In fact, Jumbo-Visma is working toward what it describes as “the pursuit of perfection.”
“The recurring theme on that wish list is the pursuit of perfection in the biggest races because, in addition to the cobbled classics, winning the double Giro d’Italia and Tour de France is also a goal for the Dutch formation,” a press note reads.
Jumbo-Visma is flying high right now, and the team’s sky-high ambitions underscore the vibe inside the team bus.
Also read: Sepp Kuss on Vingegaard: ‘We all believed he could win the Tour’
Those dreams of grand tour and monument dominance are not necessarily new for this team or any other top-level WorldTour outfit.
What is new, at least for Jumbo-Visma, is that it now packs the firepower, experience, budget, and infrastructure to, realistically, bring home the flowers in just about every race it starts.
With a handful of high-profile signings to round out its already impressive roster, the Dutch “yellow jackets” are even stronger this season as it stakes its claim at the top of the WorldTour power structure.
The ambitions begin with the spring classics with Wout van Aert and new arrival Dylan van Baarle, then barnstorms straight into the Giro d’Italia with Primož Roglič, before bulldozing toward a yellow jersey defense with Jonas Vingegaard.
If the team can win across all three targets, perfection is the right word.
“Our ambition is to win the Giro,” said Jumbo-Visma lead sport director Merijn Zeeman. “Primož rode a strong Giro a few years ago. In the coming edition, he intends to compete for the overall victory. We think the course suits Primoz very well. A powerful team will surround him.”
That mantra repeats itself across the team’s calendar in 2023.
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Vingegaard pulled off what some thought was impossible in July, and beat back Tadej Pogačar to win the yellow jersey.
The ever-cool and collected Dane is back with a Tour defense at the center of his calendar.
“I’m not under any additional pressure right now,” Vingegaard said. “You might argue that there are greater expectations, but I can also take pleasure in already having a Tour triumph under my belt.
“And I am only too happy to go and defend that title. There is something magical about starting with jersey number one. And at the start, I will have more experience than I did during the previous two editions.”
Longtime leader and team figurehead Roglič is putting the pink jersey and some unfinished business at the Giro d’Italia as his season centerpiece. Whether he starts the Tour or saves his matches for the Vuelta a España remains to be seen after how the Giro pans out.
And Van Aert, bolstered by the arrival of Paris-Roubaix winner Van Baarle and backed by an incredibly deep supporting case, is positioning Jumbo-Visma as the Quick-Step-style full-court press across the classics for the next several years.
Jumbo-Visma will have the legs to swarm any scenario during the northern classics, a tactic that Patrick Lefevere’s Quick-Step team has deployed with great success for decades.
Van Aert fully embraces the “more is better” blueprint for the classics.
“The team is even stronger with the addition of Dylan,” Van Aert said. “Riding classics is about having as many riders in the final as possible. You should be able to win as a team.”
Despite of all his success, Van Aert still hasn’t won one of the “Big Ones,” which means either Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix. He wants both, and the sooner the better.
With the classics team now surrounding him, Van Aert is in an ideal position.
“If Dylan and I are still in the lead in the final, we have a decent chance of winning,” Van Aert said. “I’m confident we will only make each other stronger. We both improve our chances by racing together.”
Perfection is hard to pull off, but worth aiming for
Can Jumbo-Visma pull off this audacious and daring pursuit of perfection?
Probably not. Injuries, illness, mechanicals, and simply stronger rivals inevitably derail any best-laid plans in elite cycling.
Something invariably happens. Just ask Roglič, who despite being in the form of his life, crashed out of both the Tour and Vuelta in 2022.
And Pogačar might have something to say about it.
But sometimes things do go to plan, and lately, Jumbo-Visma is patiently and steadily tilting that balance in its favor.
Setting the bar as high as possible is the first step toward reaching “perfection.”
Jumbo-Visma rose to the top with its patient, decade-long plan and vision to rival the likes of Sky/Ineos Grenadiers.
It recruited riders from the ground up — almost no one had heard of Roglič or Vingegaard before the team plucked them out of obscurity — and management put a target on the Tour de France and the monuments.
Now that it’s at the top of the wave, Jumbo-Visma is looking for the next crest.
The team is in a unique position that it has the depth of riders and budget to spread its wealth across nearly the entire breadth of the calendar.
It’s rare in modern cycling that teams can truly dominate across specialized and diverse riding style and focus that comes with one-day and grand tour racing.
Sky/Ineos ruled the grand tours for a decade, but never truly hit the peak in the monuments. The “Wolf Pack” governed the cobblestones with a mighty fist, but never won a grand tour in 30 years until Remco Evenepoel came along.
But neither dominated both the grand tours and monuments at once. Jumbo-Visma is going to try.
Perhaps Jumbo-Visma’s lone deficit is in its sprinting, underscored when it cut loose Dylan Groenewegen and the demands of a train to help with the leadouts in 2022. But when Van Aert is in the race, even sprints and green jerseys are in the offing.
Right now, Jumbo-Visma is in the rare company of a team that can do just about everything. There is a risk of spreading the ambitions too wide, but it’s one the team is willing to take.
In cycling, it’s often easier chasing someone else’s wheel than leading the way.
Jumbo-Visma’s audacious goals for 2023 reveal how it plans on riding on at the front all season long.