Sepp Kuss to join Jonas Vingegaard for Tour de France title defense, Primož Roglič reboots

Roglič penciled in for Vuelta to put Jumbo-Visma in frame for possible grand tour sweep, sponsor confirms imminent withdrawal of funding.

Photo: Getty Images

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Sepp Kuss will return to the center of Jumbo-Visma’s grand tour assault next month.

Jumbo-Visma sport director Merijn Zeeman revealed Friday to Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad the seven riders that will shepherd Jonas Vingegaard through his title defense at the 2023 Tour de France.

Zeeman confirmed Kuss will back up his superdomestique ride through last month’s Giro d’Italia with his fourth-straight Tour de France start in July.

After some speculation otherwise, Zeeman asserted freshly crowned Giro champion Primož Roglič will not be part of Jumbo-Visma’s maillot jaune-defending team.

Wout van Aert, Dylan Van Baarle, Christophe Laporte, Steven Kruijswijk, Tiesj Benoot, and Nathan Van Hooydonck complete Jumbo-Visma’s Tour de France eight for a team is a near-replica of the outfit that steamrollered into Paris last summer.

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Roglič is the only omission from the team that helped Vingegaard win Jumbo-Visma its first yellow jersey last summer. Van Baarle makes for a more rouleur-profile replacement for the Slovenian, while climber talent Wilco Kelderman waits as reserve.

It’s a line-up that could have Tadej Pogačar quaking in his cleats as he fast-tracks his Tour de France training atop Sierra Nevada after his injury setback this spring.

A 2023 grand tour sweep?

Pogacar Vingegaard 2022 Tour de France
Zeeman backs Vingegaard to be better than ever this summer.

If Van Aert, Kuss, and Co. can help pilot Vingegaard to a second-straight title defense in July, Jumbo-Visma would be poised to sweep all the season’s grand tours.

Three-time red jersey Roglič is sketched in for a return to the Vuelta a España this summer in a race where he would take five-star status no matter what the opposition.

“I’m leaving Primož alone after the Giro, we will make new plans later,” Zeeman told AD. “Before the season we penciled in that he will also ride the Vuelta and it’s certainly a viable option. Primož would also really like to ride and win Il Lombardia, he certainly has those qualities.”

Roglič was instrumental to Vingegaard’s victory at last year’s Tour.

He made some of the jabs at Pogačar in the for-the-ages Granon stage on a day that ultimately derailed the two-time champion’s quest for a yellow jersey hat-trick, and dug deep for the team before injuries forced him to abandon.

Roglič’s climbing presence will no doubt be missed at the Tour, but Kuss and Van Aert should ably fill the gap.

Van Aert has ruled out a possible push at the green jersey to save a match for the Glasgow worlds and will instead pour energy into stage-hunting and domestique duties. The Belgian has proven he can dominate on all terrain and could serve Vingegaard almost every day of the race.

And in Kuss, Vingegaard has arguably the top mountain-man in the peloton.

Kuss steered Roglič toward all three of his Vuelta a España victories, delivered decisive pulls for Jumbo-Visma through last month’s Giro, and put the pain on Pogačar to help Vingegaard ride into the yellow jersey last year.

But of course, the Tour de France will come down to which individual is strongest.

Jumbo-Visma isn’t shy in backing Vingegaard’s form as he arrives toward the centerpoint of his season. The Dane lines out Sunday for the Critérium du Dauphiné with victory in the back of his mind as he contemplates bigger goals in July.

“Jonas is doing well,” Zeeman said. “We see the Dauphiné as preparation for the Tour, so he is certainly not at his peak yet. But Jonas who is not yet on top form will still participate with the best, that I know for sure.

“After the Dauphiné, it is still three weeks to the Tour, where he will do more focussed training.”

The incoming Vingegaard-Pogačar prize-fight at the Tour de France takes on added intrigue as UAE Emirates’ Mercxian ace builds back from injury.

Pogačar told the press this week he’s confident and as on track for the Tour’s Grand Départ as he could be. But Vingegaard could be a level further from the rider Pogačar dismantled at Paris-Nice this winter.

“Jonas is getting to know his body better and better,” Zeeman said. “How do I take best care of myself? How do I prepare for a grand tour? He’s really customized his training, nutrition, and his communication with his coach.”

Jumbo superstores to end sponsorship by 2024

Roglič won another grand tour for Jumbo as supermarket chain prepares to exit all sports. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

This season could prove a big one for Jumbo-Visma both on and off the road.

Title sponsor Jumbo superstores confirmed this week the long-running speculation it would pull its investment in all sports at the end of 2024. The withdrawal would also shutter the business’ ties with Formula 1 megastar Max Verstappen and the Jumbo-Visma speed skating team.

“The sponsorship has brought us a lot of brand awareness, but we have now won everything there is to win,” Jumbo CEO Ton van Veen told AD of his support of the cycling team.

Jumbo is contracted with Jumbo-Visma through 2024, though Van Veen indicated he’s happy to step down from the position of title backer ahead of time if a replacement is found.

Team boss Richard Plugge previously told Dutch press he’s not worried about the sponsor situation. As reigning Tour de France champions and topper of the 2022 WorldTour rankings, the team packs prestige for any prospective partner.

Another Tour de France title and 2023 grand tour sweep would make Plugge’s future financial negotiations all the easier.

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