Is Jumbo-Visma the new Quick-Step in the classics?: ‘This is not like PlayStation’

The big yellow machine rolls into Dwars door Vlaanderen as favorites even with Van Aert and Van Baarle resting up for Tour of Flanders.

Photo: Gruber Images/VeloNews

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WEVELGEM, Belgium (VN) — The yellow jackets from Jumbo-Visma team are very hard to beat and are dominating the stage races and the spring classics.

Since victory in the Belgian “opening weekend,” the team is building toward Sunday’s Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Coming off Wout van Aert‘s final sprint blitz at E3 Saxo Bank and Sunday’s one-two domination at Gent-Wevelgemn, it’s crystal clear Jumbo-Visma is on fire.

Many are comparing the team’s depth and quality to how Soudal Quick-Step used to rule the bergs and cobblestones.

Jumbo-Visma sport director Arthur Van Dongen shrugged off those comparisons, and said nothing is pre-scripted in the spring classics.

“It might seem like we’re controlling the race as if it’s a PlayStation game, but that’s not the case,” Van Dongen said. “On Wednesday there’s another race at Dwars.”

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This weekend the “Holy Week” kicks off, with every expectation that the team will dominate the Tour of Flanders and then Paris-Roubaix.

Jumbo-Visma brings a very strong lineup for the Ronde with Wout van Aert, Christophe Laporte, Dylan van Baarle, Tiesj Benoot, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Edoardo Affini. Tosh Van der Sande is the seventh man for Jumbo-Visma, confirmed Van Dongen on Sunday.

The team was still buzzing from its big show Sunday in the cold and rain of Gent-Wevelgem. Add Primož Roglič and his win in sunny Spain at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, the team is flying high.

Van Hooydonck: ‘It’s a privilege to ride for this team’

Nathan Van Hooydonck is emerging as a key part of the Jumbo-Visma classics squad.

The depth of Jumbo-Visma goes deep into the roster. Behind stars like Van Aert, Laporte, and Van Baarle are riders like Nathan Van Hooydonck.

The Belgian rider was beaming with joy Sunday despite shivering from the cold while standing in the mixed zone in Wevelgem.

“I’m super proud to be part of this,” he said Sunday. “Every time I put on this kit I feel like it’s a privilege to ride for this team.

“When Wout accelerated away on the Kemmelberg I thought it was way too fast and nobody would be able to follow, but Christophe did. I wondered where they were going but apparently they were headed for Wevelgem.”

That question of whether or not Van Aert should have allowed Laporte to win continues to rattle across the peloton. Belgian legends Eddy Merckx and Tom Boonen both say they would have never let a victory as big as Gent-Wevelgem get away.

Yet Van Aert’s generosity reflects the ethos of Jumbo-Visma, and how the Dutch team has risen from the ruins of “Team Blanco” less than a decade ago into one of the peloton’s most powerful lineups.

Maarten Wynants was the director sportif in No. 1 car behind Van Aert and Laporte during their Duo Normand, a two-rider time–trial versus the remains of the peloton.

“We didn’t interfere in the discussion but Grischa [DS, Niermann] told the guys that they were old and wise enough to sort among themselves who would cross the line first and that’s what they did,” Van Dongen said.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Did Van Aert do the right thing to &#39;gift&#39; Gent-Wevelgem to Laporte on Sunday?

Van Aert defended his decision and said that the finishing positions didn’t really matter to him.

“This feels like a win I share with Christophe. It makes me even more happy than my previous victory in Gent-Wevelgem,” Van Aert said. In a short space of time he became a good friend of mine. We’re spending a lot of time together during training camps and races.

“He helped me a lot to win the green jersey at the Tour de France and to win the E3. This was a great opportunity to pay him back for that,” Van Aert said.

The work for the team didn’t stop after the finish. At the finish line Sunday in Wevelgem, director sportif Wynants was handing over warm clothing to his rain-soaked riders.

“This was a big effort and they used a lot of energy. That’s why I’m giving jackets to the guys during the interviews so they don’t get sick now,” Wynants said. “This is sometimes forgotten during the euphoria of the victory. That’s also why I’m telling them to dare to come to the team car during the race to get fresh clothing when it’s cold.

“I think they all came to the car three times to get a new jacket. It’s certainly more pleasant, especially during the controlling phase in the middle of the race where they cool down,” Wynants explained.

How good is Van Aert? His rain jacket was his biggest rival

Sometimes even riders like Wout van Aert have a hard time with jackets.

As it turned out, Van Aert struggled more with his clothing than with the competition on Sunday.

“Wout just told me that closing down his jacket was the most difficult thing today,” Wynants said. “After turning away from the coast in De Panne the peloton split up and he was in the second group. He was unable to close his jacket and he briefly had to stop. His hands were cold and then it’s hard to use your fine motor skills. He said that as a joke. It could be decisive. If it splits up there then it’s very hard to turn that around,” Wynants said.

Jumbo-Visma’s domination was complete Sunday, and the team will be stacked for Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday.

If the peloton would’ve caught back the yellow duo then Jumbo-Visma had another weapon ready with Olav Kooij. The young Dutch sprinter is surfing along with the positive vibe in the team and developing into a sprinter that can mix in on the climbs in the classics.

“We had three ‘red’ riders today. That’s a lot. Wout, Christophe and Olav were the team leaders,” Wynants said. “If the chase group would come back, then we decided we would be playing the card of Olav for the sprint. Chapeau that he’s doing that at this age.

“If you’re able to finish second in a very hard edition of Brugge-De Panne and perform like this in Gent-Wevelgem, then you’re certainly going in the right direction. This edition was hard because of the weather and the triple ascent of the Kemmelberg climb.”

The big yellow machine rolls into Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday with Laporte, Kooij, and Tiesj Benoot as leaders.

With big guns Van Aert and Dylan van Baarle keeping their powder dry in the wings, that shows just how deep and strong Jumbo-Visma is in the spring classics.

Yet just like Quick-Step back in its heyday, it’s the “big” trophies as Flanders and Roubaix that really count. The measurement of the campaign will be taken then.

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