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Wout van Aert has been an effervescent everyman: time trial challenger, bunch sprinter, super-domestique and breakaway artist.
His stage win on day four into Calais came after a display of team riding exploded the bunch. They have been the most prominent team of the race’s first week.
Asked in an interview with L’Équipe about how he deals with the suspicion often generated by their dominance, Jumbo-Visma manager Merijn Zeeman said: “The French maybe won’t like this, but I don’t think they work with the same professionalism as us.”
“They regularly suggest that our results are due to ketones, to mechanical doping, whatever… for me, they’re looking for excuses.
“Certain teams, not just the French ones, refuse to look squarely at their own lack of rigour and say that others are doing bad things.”
Ketone suspicions an annoyance
The team left the inter-team group MPCC (Mouvement pour un cyclisme crédible) in 2016 over their use of ketones. Asked whether he thought that leads to suspicions, Zeeman replied: “It’s the most ridiculous discussion I’ve ever seen in cycling … it’s just a food supplement.”
“Sometimes it annoys us. Ketones make up not even one percent of our performance work. How to train better, optimising the effects of altitude, improving the bikes, having the ideal nutrition before, during and after races. Those are the most important things.”
He added later: “We have to stay vigilant, but I think cycling has undergone a real change. When I see our riders, there is not this underlying idea that if they cheat, they can win.”
Green light means go to Jumbo
The manager added that when it comes to prospective riders joining Jumbo-Visma, they request the entirety of their blood tests since turning professional, which are then analysed by an independent anti-doping expert.
The riders are then categorised into green, orange and red categories. Only those in the green can join Jumbo-Visma.
“For us, there’s no grey zone, only black or white,” Zeeman said.
Roglič, king of resilience
The 43-year-old Zeeman tested positive for Covid-19 days before the start of the Tour de France and was forced to stay away from the race.
He uses Primož Roglič as the prime example the squad’s work and philosophy, creating an environment of thinking for themselves and having intrinsic motivation: “He does things because he wants to. He doesn’t respond to the demands of anyone else except himself.
“He is really the master of his own career, his evolution. He takes the advice we give, he’s clever and always wants to learn.”
“When he joined us at the end of 2015, he went everywhere with a notebook where he wrote down his experiences. Now, when he encounters a problem, he goes there immediately to understand how to deal with it.”
Time will only tell how Roglič deals with the disappointment of losing two minutes after crashing in stage 5 and dislocating his shoulder, not to mention the physical pain. But history tells us he can put such disillusion behind him rapidly.
Take his last gasp defeat at the Tour de France in 2020, followed shortly by glory at the Vuelta a España and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Or crashing out the following year early in the race then taking Olympic gold and another Vuelta victory. “No other sportsperson in the world has shown they’re better at managing disappointment,” Zeeman said.