Jumbo-Visma assembles Tour de France team for Jonas Vingegaard, question marks over Sepp Kuss

Eight likely Jumbo-Visma Tour riders head to altitude while Kuss races Giro, Pogačar reportedly training on the rollers after fracturing wrist.

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Away from the hurly-burly of the Giro d’Italia, Jumbo-Visma is quietly making steps through its Tour de France masterplan.

Jonas Vingegaard, Wout van Aert and an elite core of their Jumbo-Visma teammates are hunkered down on the high-altitude Sierra Nevada summit in what is a preview of the team set to take on Tadej Pogačar in its yellow jersey defense.

“We have a pool of nine riders for the Tour, and we will decide after the Tour de Suisse,” sport director Merijn Zeeman told Het Nieuwsblad.

“For the time being, we’re focused on preparing as well as possible, including for a possible setback. As we saw in the run-up to the Giro, it is better to go towards top condition with several riders.”

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All eyes are on Jumbo-Visma ahead of this year’s Tour.

The team took down two-time champion Pogačar last summer and brought big in the transfer market this winter to bolster an already all-swinging team.

New recruits Wilco Kelderman and Dylan van Baarle are with Vingegaard and Van Aert on the Spanish Sierra and are likely shoo-ins for three weeks in France.

Steven Kruijswijk, Tiesj Benoot, Christophe Laporte, and Nathan van Hooydonck make up the remains of the eight currently at altitude and hunting for a slot at the Tour’s Basque start on July 1.

“Everyone is there except Sepp Kuss,” Zeeman said. “Whether he goes to the Tour depends on how he comes out of the Giro, and if he can work toward top condition again.”

Question mark over Kuss

Sepp Kuss pedaling with Primoz Roglic for Jumbo Visma
Sepp Kuss and Primož Roglič are racing the Giro and questionmarks remain over whether the Coloradan will be at the Tour. (Photo: Gruber Images / VN)

Jumbo-Visma already ruled out Tour de France podium-finisher Promož Roglič from a fifth Tour de France this summer in the assumption he will go too deep in his duel with Remco Evenepoel at the Giro d’Italia.

The crucial question mark for the Dutch crew is over climber superdomestique Sepp Kuss.

The Coloradan piloted Vingegaard to victory last summer and was instrumental in all three of Rogilič’s red jerseys at the Vuelta, but saw his schedule turned upside down this month with his late call to the corsa rosa.

Kuss will be in a five-week race against time to recover from the always-attritional Giro d’Italia ahead of the Tour’s Bilbao start.

The rapid turnaround between the Italian and French grand tours put a handbrake on many GC riders attempting the Giro-Tour double.

Kuss will likely be pushed to the limit supporting Roglič in a Jumbo-Visma Giro eight decimated by COVID and crashes in the week before the Abruzzo start. Nonetheless, the 28-year-old remains optimistic he will see a fourth-straight Tour de France this July.

“This year, there’s quite a lot of time in between each grand tour. On paper, anything is possible,” Kuss told VeloNews. “I just have to approach it one race at a time.”

Jumbo-Visma at thin air, Pogačar indoors

Wout van Aert, Christophe Laporte and Teisj Benoot are among the Tour de France eight on Sierra Nevada. (Photo: Wout van Aert / Strava)

Vingegaard, Van Aert and Co arrived Tuesday on the 2,300m Sierra.

Altitude training protocol sees them taking an “easy” start to what will be a three-week camp designed to max out both endurance and top-end power before tune-up races at the Critérium du Dauphine and Tour de Suisse.

Strava shows the Jumbo-Visma crew so far amassed around 230km and 6,000m climbing as they adapt to thin air ahead of the bigger training efforts to come.

And Jumbo-Visma’s archrival Pogačar?

The UAE Emirates ace laid down a warning to Vingegaard when he dominated the Dane at Paris-Nice, but has been quiet since he fractured his wrist at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in late April.

UAE Emirates chief Mauro Gianetti indicated earlier this month that Pogčar should by now be back on the rollers ahead of an anticipated return to the tarmac at the end of May.

Pogačar is currently scheduled to race on home roads mid-June in the mission to claim a third-straight Tour of Slovenia title.

Meanwhile, Vingegaard and the core of his likely Tour support team will test French roads at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

And from there, all roads lead to Paris.

“We are forging a team that works together towards one main goal and we hope that by being together a lot and training together, something magical will happen,” Jumbo-Visma director Zeeman said of the Sierra camp. “We all want to achieve the same main goal together again.”

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