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The cobblestones of the “Opening Weekend” may seem very far from the Tuscan hills of Strade Bianche for Jumbo-Visma.
Just six days after the Dutch squad executed a tactical masterclass at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne to close out a stunning double in the Belgian opener, Jumbo-Visma’s racers got it horribly wrong Saturday in Italy.
“Jumbo-Visma lost the race because they each did their own thing,” Matej Mohorič succinctly summarised at the finish of Strade.
Mohorič got a first-hand view of a Jumbo-Visma meltdown as he pedaled alongside Tiesj Benoot and Attila Valter in the group that failed to chase down Tom Pidcock.
“They didn’t sacrifice Attila to get Pidcock back, because it was possible,” the Slovenian said.
The Jumbo-Visma tactical bible that delivered crushing team victory in Kuurne last Sunday lost a few pages on the flight to Tuscany.
Benoot and Valter both made the power-packed group behind Pidcock’s surging solo and proceeded to derail each other’s efforts in the chase.
Some Cat. 4 racer strategies first started to spill out when Valter pulled a group back to a visibly displeased Benoot deep in the final, and it didn’t get a lot better.
The twosome enjoyed the numerical advantage in the chasing five but didn’t make it deliver through a following 20km that Jumbo-Visma will want to forget.
A third-place finish for Benoot made for scant consolation from a race that got away.
“A podium finish would have been good if you’d asked me before the start. But I think I had the legs to win, so I’ve got mixed feelings,” Benoot told media at the finish.
“Now there is still some disappointment. Maybe tomorrow that disappointment might give way to pride.”
Hot off victory in Kuurne and eager to attack, Benoot looked the best of Jumbo-Visma’s options Saturday. But neither he nor his new Hungarian teammate took control.
And orders on the team radio? Who knows.
Even when Pidcock dangled less than 10 seconds ahead, Jumbo-Visma’s teammates rode like rivals.
“It was my mistake,” Valter admitted. “I should have communicated better with Tiesj … Give us a few more races together and it will go much better. It’s only my first race with him.”
Jumbo-Visma’s spectacular demolition of “Opening Weekend” melted into obscurity in Siena.
Two on the podium and a victory at both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne last weekend saw the Dutch squad lauded for its savvy and strength.
“Our slogan is ‘winning together.’ It’s what we need to do with our status,” team director Arthur van Dongen said as he relished victory in Kuurne. “We put the bar high everywhere and luckily, with the desired result.”
Turns out six days is a long time in pro cycling.
— Alejandro Matiz Piña (@amatiz12) March 4, 2023