Lure of Tour de France opened door for high-profile Dylan Groenewegen move

Here's the inside story on why Dylan Groenewegen was the odd-man out at Jumbo-Visma and the Tour de France, and how BikeExchange-Jayco pounced when management heard the Dutch speedster might be interested in a move.

Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

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Like any natural-born sprinter, Dylan Groenewegen wants to race and win stages at the Tour de France.

The Dutch star was facing a calculus problem, however. His bosses at Jumbo-Visma team want to race and win the entire Tour, not just a few bits along the way.

Limited to eight starters, the numbers just didn’t add up for Jumbo-Visma and its franchise-wide quest to win the yellow jersey with Primož Roglič.

Groenewegen was the odd-man-out, and it was that mix of ambitions and priorities that led to the Dutch rider’s sudden and high-profile departure from Jumbo-Visma last week to join BikeExchange-Jayco on a three-year deal.

“It’s a good decision for all three parties,” BikeExchange-Jayco general manager Brent Copeland told VeloNews. “Dylan was keen to race the Tour de France. Jumbo-Visma wants to win the Tour with a team built around Roglič. And it’s difficult to have a sprint train if you’re targeting final victory. As much as they were sad about losing him, it was the best decision for everyone.”

Also read: Groenewegen free to join BikeExchange-Jayco

In today’s reduced grand tour squads, there simply isn’t room for a sprinter and a few support riders on a team targeting the maillot jaune.

The late-hour move also revealed just how fluid and fast-moving rider transfers can be in professional cycling. All it takes is committed parties — and an open checkbook — and just about anything is possible.

Jumbo-Visma could afford to let Groenewegen go, and BikeExchange-Jayco was more than happy to scoop him up.

Goals of Groenewegen and Jumbo-Visma didn’t line up

BURGOS, SPAIN - AUGUST 15: Primoz Roglic of Slovenia and Team Jumbo - Visma red leader jersey prior to the 76th Tour of Spain 2021, Stage 2 a 166,7km stage from Caleruega - Monasterio de Santo Domingo de Guzmán to Burgos - Gamonal / @lavuelta / #LaVuelta21 / #CapitalMundialdelCiclismo / on August 15, 2021 in Burgos, Spain. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Primož Roglič, shown here with Sepp Kuss, has eyes on the yellow jersey. (Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Sources tell VeloNews the pieces started moving just a few weeks ago.

Behind the scenes, Groenewegen was making it loud and clear to Jumbo-Visma team management at planning meetings this fall that he wanted another shot at a return to the Tour in 2022.

The 28-year-old boasts four Tour de France stage wins from 2017 to 2019 among his 56 career victories. He missed the 2020 and 2021 editions of the Tour due in part to the fallout in the wake of his high-profile crash with Fabio Jakobsen that nearly killed the rival sprinter in the opening stage of the 2020 Tour de Pologne.

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Groenewegen was sidelined with a ban from racing, and returned to race the Giro d’Italia in 2021, but was not selected to race the 2021 Tour.

It’s obvious that Jumbo-Visma is intent on trying to win the yellow jersey with Roglič, who is seen by many inside the peloton as the only rider strong enough to directly challenge Tadej Pogačar in a tug-of-war for the yellow tunic.

Though he was still under contract with Jumbo-Visma, Groenewegen likely wasn’t going back to the Tour any time soon.

“With eight riders [at the Tour], you cannot have a domestique all day in the bunch working for a sprint if you want them in the third week for a GC rider,” Copeland said. “It’s complicated to bring a sprinter, especially with the 2022 Tour de France being so difficult in the first week with wind and cobbles. It’s going to be a hell of a first week of the Tour.”

Groenewegen’s time in cycling purgatory coincided with Roglič’s next-level push in the grand tour hierarchy, capped by his third straight victory at the Vuelta a España in September.

Jumbo-Visma could afford to say no. It is so loaded with talent it can still manage to win a few sprint stages using all-rounder Wout van Aert, who can not only win across a variety of terrain, but also double as a brunt-force instrument on the flats and mountains for Roglič.

The writing was on the wall.

Pedigree and room to sprint at BikeExchange-Jayco

Caleb Ewan won stage 7 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia
The departure of Caleb Ewan after 2018 meant there was room for a new pure sprinter. (Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Team brass at BikeExchange-Jayco already had its eyes set on signing another world-class sprinter before they picked up signals the Groenewegen might be reconsidering his options.

The controversial departure of Caleb Ewan after the 2018 season left a hole in the team’s roster. A few riders stepped up, including Luka Mezgec and the return of Michael Matthews, and though both are capable of winning in mass gallops, neither pack the fierce speed and horse-power of a pure sprinter.

“We’ve been thinking about signing a pure sprinter for a while,” Copeland said in a phone call from the team’s camp in Cambrils, Spain. “If you want a pure sprinter, you want someone who can win the big stages like at the Tour de France or at the classics. We had a couple of names on our list, and Dylan Groenewegen was one of those names.”

BikeExchange-Jayco already officially closed its 2022 roster when things started to move behind the scenes just a few weeks ago.

Contacts were made, and negotiations quickly opened up between Groenewegen and BikeExchange-Jayco. Jumbo-Visma didn’t put up any roadblocks to a possible exit and helped ease the way despite having his pen to paper for three years. BikeExchange-Jayco team owner Gerry Ryan made it happen on the financial side, and things quickly fell into place.

“We had heard that Dylan was keen on the Tour, and we have open opportunities to give to a rider of his characteristics,” Copeland said. “We got talking to Richard Plugge at Jumbo-Visma, and they were open to the discussion and taking it forward. With the incredible support from Gerry Ryan, and he was keen to make it happen. That’s where the negations started to pick it up and we got it done.”

Building a new train around Groenewegen

Dylan groenewegen won stage 4 of the 2020 UAE Tour
BikeExchange-Jayco promises to give Groenewegen the support he needs in the sprints. (Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Copeland said the issue of the crash at the Tour of Poland was not an issue about his future at Jumbo-Visma nor did it come up in negotiations with BikeExchange-Jayco.

Instead, it’s all about building a sprint train to support Groenewegen and delivering victories on the road.

At Jumbo-Visma, it was crowded at the top. At BikeExchange-Jayco, there was room to move. It soon became apparent it was a perfect fit for Groenewegen, who packs one of the fiercest sprints in the peloton.

“We are very excited about it. He is a rider who can get those big victories we were missing in 2021,” Copeland said. “It rounds out the team really well.”

For 2022, the men’s team sees Simon Yates remain as the central figure on the GC, with riders such as Lucas Hamilton and others developing their stage-racing talent.

Matthews will still see plenty of opportunities to win, and Copeland countered that the presence of Groenewegen will open up more space for Matthews to focus on the types of races he’s best-suited for rather than trying to win against the pure sprinters.

The exit of Esteban Chaves, and the arrival of such riders as Lawson Craddock and Matteo Sobrero also means there’s plenty of room to build out a train for Groenewegen.

In fact, much of the team’s more veteran riders are well-accustomed to the bump and grind of leading out a bunch sprint.

“This team has got a lot of horsepower, and we have a team to build around Dylan,” Copeland said. “The boys know how to do the job, and Dylan will see the support the way he wants it to be.”

Groenewegen is scheduled to arrive at the team camp this week, and the finer details of his calendar and who will help lead him out in the sprints will be fleshed out.

Much like winning a bunch sprint, timing is everything. And the deal to deliver Groenewegen to BikeExchange-Jayco came fast and furious, and team management pounced to make it happen.

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