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HARELBEKE, Belgium (VN) — The Jumbo-Visma team managed an extremely rare two-up in the E3 Saxo Bank Classic on Friday afternoon. Rare until this season that is, since they already managed a three-up at Paris-Nice a few weeks ago.
Without a doubt the men in yellow are the team to beat during the upcoming spring classics. Next week the Jumbo-Visma team will be the top favorites at the Tour of Flanders.
Jumbo-Visma teammate Mike Teunissen, a former stage winner and yellow jersey wearer at the Tour de France 2019 stated it was way too early to get carried away.
“We have to take responsibility. There’s no guarantee we will rack up the race in a similar way. It’s a new race with fresh riders. It’s certainly not going bad, it’s going solid,” he told VeloNews with a laugh. “First we have to see how next week’s race [Tour of Flanders] will unfold.”
Teunissen lacked racing rhythm and after working for the team he still managed to become the fourth Jumbo-Visma rider in the lead group at the Eikenberg.
Also present in front was Christophe Laporte who clearly took a major leap forward since joining the boys in yellow.
“Physically I feel better. It’s not a big difference. The group makes the difference mentally,” Laporte said. “The equipment, nutrition, training and mentally by riding with men like Wout and Primoz in Paris-Nice, everybody in the team. This is an incredible team. There’s always yellow men in front. We’re pushing our limits. This is what I hoped to find here and it’s happening.”
Jumbo-Visma emerges as the strongest classics squad after smashing performance
Richard Plugge, the Jumbo-Visma managing director, was proud of what his team achieved on Friday.
“We hoped this would be possible. With men like Christophe Laporte we bought in riders who would strengthen our team in these races,” Plugge told VeloNews on Friday evening in Harelbeke. “Tosh Van der Sande also plays a key role in the pre-finale, but he crashed away today with an elbow injury. The goal was to out-number the others and that it worked out was really nice. We understand that we are being watched. We did very well today. The others will be looking at us even more now. That’s OK.
“We’ve got a great team spirit. The boys were good and they’re doing everything for each other. That’s the most important,” Plugge continued. “Nathan Van Hooydonck has a key role in the team. From the Hotond climb he was riding flat out in order to be the first when turning towards the foot of the Kortekeer climb. That’s the ride into the Taaienberg climb.
“The peloton is probably two kilometers long at that point. Nathan is doing that magnificently. We were well positioned at that point. Quick Step did the same thing and were well positioned with Asgreen and Senechal but he punctured away unluckily. The tactic from DS Grischa Niermann was executed to perfection,” Plugge said. “We wanted to have a few men in the front group which gets formed at the Taaienberg climb, always. It’s the point where others have to throw in a massive amount of energy to come back. That proved to be the case. Ineos had to work hard to come back. The difference was made over there.”
On Sunday Jumbo-Visma will once again be the team to beat in Gent-Wevelgem. The Dutch team can dominate the race if it’s wide open and when it comes down to a group sprint.
“I’ve been fourth before in Wevelgem,” Laporte said. “The best chance for us to win a bunch sprint in Wevelgem is with Wout. He’s the fastest. My chance to win grows when the race is wide open. We’ve got several cards to play in these races.”
One week later there’s the Tour of Flanders and Plugge was asked whether Wout van Aert would be the sole leader in the team.
“We’ll see about that. We’re a team and we win as a team. You see how we worked together. Tiesje rode very well and rode in support too. Tosh is a very important rider too but he dropped away today with an elbow injury. We’ve got several cards to play,” Plugge said.
While destroying the competition on the roads to Harelbeke the two men up the road had to deal with one minor topic: who would win? Plugge claimed that the team didn’t interfere.
“It’s a race. They have to race and see who’s the strongest. They had to deal with it among each other. They enjoyed enough of a bonus to talk it through,” Plugge told VeloNews.
Laporte said it was a no-brainer: “He didn’t have to ask anything. At 10km to go I told him: it’s for you. He did a gift for me in Paris-Nice. He was stronger than me and I was ‘offered’ the victory there. He deserved the victory today. The team told us to deal with it.”