Dissecting Jumbo-Visma’s cobbled nightmare

This was the day for Jumbo-Visma to flex their strength on the cobbles, but the team was left scrambling.

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The first set of sectors went just fine. Then, in the span of ten minutes, Jumbo-Visma’s cobble stage turned into a lumpy, bumpy nightmare. 

A single mechanical snowballed, picking up momentum as it rolled toward the finish line just a few hundred meters from the start of the Arenberg Forest. In the end, confused bike changes and bad luck were pitted against the heroics of Wout van Aert, who turned the Tour de France stage that could have been catastrophic for Jumbo-Visma into one that was merely bad.

The bike change

A mechanical issue for Jonas Vingegaard about 37 kilometers from the finish set off the chain reaction that would define the remainder of Jumbo-Visma’s day.

At first, all seemed under control. Vingegaard had plenty of teammates nearby and within seconds he was on a teammate’s bike and continuing his forward progress. The only problem was that he had swapped bikes with Nathan van Hooydonck, who is 6’4″ (193 cm) tall. Vingegaard is 5’9″ (175 cm). Clipped in, he couldn’t reach the seat.

Frantically, he called over the radio. Other Jumbo riders sat up ahead and waited, and the first to get back was the much closer in height Steven Kruijswijk, who is just over an inch (3 cm) taller than Vingegaard. Much better.

Ah! But in this moment the team car arrived. After the stage, Wout van Aert told reporters that the team had communication issues in this moment, and though he didn’t go into details, it seems likely that Vingegaard was momentarily disconnected from the team car.

So the car screeches to a halt on the opposite side of the road and Vingegaard, still holding Kruijswijk’s bike, makes a dash for it. Kruijkswijk, realizing his bike is about to be available again and he doesn’t have to try to ride Van Hooydonck’s monster machine, scampers across the road after him.

Where is Van Hooydonck in all this? Well, he’s riding Vingegaard’s tiny bike like a grown man in a tricycle race, and he arrives just as Kruijswijk leaves his bike on the grass. He drops Vingegaard’s broken bike and gets back on his own bike and now everybody is riding something that fits them again, Vingegaard is on his B bike, and the chase can begin.

The whole thing dropped Vingegaard back a full minute. Wout van Aert cruised by in the yellow jersey, returning from his own incident, and waved to get on his wheel but the speed differential was too high. Wout was gone, at least for now.

Wout waits

Much was made of Wout van Aert’s existential dilemma ahead of Wednesday’s stage. Should he wait? Or should he go for the stage win? The Belgian press has been downright apoplectic whenever the former is mentioned as a reasonable course of action, but it was always likely to be team orders winning out over a second stage win.

Ideally, the choice would never have to be made. If Roglič and Vingegaard had smooth days, Wout could do his thing and make moves in the finale. But as soon as Vingegaard had a chain issue, that went out the window.

Van Aert passed Vingegaard as he was finally getting up to speed on his own bike following the mechanical. He waved as if to say “hop on,” but Vingegaard couldn’t and Wout was soon up the road. About two kilometers later though, the call came through: Back you go. And he did. Wout waited.

The haybale crash and a Jumbo decision

There isn’t any great footage of Roglič hitting the deck but it was at the tail end of the crash shown here, caused by a motorbike clipping the hay bale, pulling it out into the road. The bale should have been secured, the moto shouldn’t have hit it, and this unfortunate and avoidable moment ended with Roglič dislocating his shoulder.

Roglič sat down in a fan’s chair just past the roundabout and popped his shoulder back in, and in that time Van Aert and Vingegaard came through at the front of the chase group.

“We passed the roundabout with the crash of Primož but we didn’t see Primož so it was also strange for us that Primož was down somewhere there,” Van Aert said after the stage. Roglič was busy with his shoulder at the time, back in the crowd, with no team car near him to indicate to Van Aert that there was an issue.

That left Jumbo leading the chase with Van Aert and Vingegaard, and with a solo Roglič dangling behind. The decisions that followed provide some insight into how Jumbo is thinking of its two GC leaders. The team sent Van Hooydonck and eventually Tiesj Benoot back to Roglič, but left Van Aert and Christophe Laporte with Vingegaard in the first chase group. Having two GC leaders forced the team to split its strength.

It ended up working out for Vingegaard, who was pulled back to the main group of favorites. He finished with most of his rivals, barring Pogačar, who took 13 seconds on everyone. But for Roglič the losses put a massive dent in his dreams of yellow. He’s now 2’17” back on Tadej Pogačar and more than a minute and a half behind the Ineos trio of Geraint Thomas, Tom Pidcock, and Adam Yates. Perhaps more important for Jumbo’s immediate future is his gap to Vingegaard: 1 minute, 56 seconds.

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