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While defending champion Tadej Pogačar has brought a streamlined team to the Tour de France that will be fully focussed on his needs, Jumbo-Visma has identified a number of objectives within its camp.
For starters they arrive in Copenhagen for Friday’s Tour start with two GC leaders in Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard, while on top of that van Aert has been given assurances by the team that he will have a degree of freedom in chasing the green jersey.
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The Belgian is the unquestioned favorite for the points competition but team duties and riding for the GC ambitions of the squad could complicate matters, unless the all-rounder can establish an unassailable lead within the first half of the race.
“I don’t see problems combining these two goals,” van Aert said during Jumbo-Visma’s pre-Tour de France press conference on Wednesday.
“It would be a dream come true if the team can fulfil its goals. I showed in previous editions of the Tour that I am able to combine a lot of tasks. Going for the yellow jersey is the priority for our team, which we’ve been hunting for a few years. I am looking forward to contributing to that, but the green jersey will take energy as well. This year I will have more freedom to catch as many points as possible. I can help the team in going for stage wins. In stages trying to take intermediate sprints and then helping my teammates will not be an issue for me,” he said.
Another question mark hanging over van Aert surrounds the injured knee that kept him out of nationals and off the bike for a few days ahead of the Tour de France.
The Belgian wouldn’t be on the startline on Friday unless he was comfortable with the situation but he added that daily monitoring would be needed as the race progressed. A stern test will come on the opening day of the Tour with a 13.2km time trial around the centre of Copenhagen.
“I missed one hard training block, and I missed some training, but I had to listen to my body. I don’t feel any pain, but we have to be careful every day. It’s not ideal. I just hope on Friday on a short effort like this that all the training from the previous months has not completely disappeared. I go in with full motivation, mentally it’s not the easiest way to approach the Tour, but I want to give 100 percent like I always do.”
“Everything related to pedaling is not really good. Standing on the pedals is less tension because the angle of my knee is less. The most friction I have is with the deep squat, on top of the kneecap when I had the impact on the handlebar on the wrong place. It’s more painful on the TT bike. On the other hand the most pain I will have is with the really long rides. The longer I have to pedal the more stress I have on the knee, so the short TT is not a disadvantage for me.”