Jumbo’s nightmare day, and what it means for keeping Pogačar at bay

Jumbo is now weaker, particularly in the high mountains. Can Pogačar take advantage?

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Someone, somewhere, is sticking pins in a Jumbo-Visma doll.

Four out of seven Jumbo-Visma riders crashed on Sunday. One of those riders was the yellow jersey, just hours after the team’s other co-leader-turned-super-domestique dropped out of the race due to an injury sustained more than a week ago.

Primož Roglič was a DNS this morning, citing a need to recover from injury somewhere decidedly less stressful than the Tour de France. Then the hot, sticky roads to Carcassonne claimed Steven Krujkswijk, his coat hanger shoulders cracking against the pavement. It appears to be a collarbone, and he’s out of the race. That crash sent Wout van Aert, the team’s most versatile and perhaps crucial domestique, to the ground as well. 

Moments later, the yellow jersey hit the floor. Jonas Vingegaard scuffed up his left side and appeared to hit his head. He jumped on a new bike, leaving his yellow Cervelo in the middle of the road, and chased back to the peloton, snatching a couple of Strava KOMs in his haste. Tiesj Benoot went down in that same crash, but seemed far more concerned with recovering his head unit than whatever injury was causing him to hobble across the road on his way to pick it up. 

“I’m OK,” Vingegaard said after the stage. “Just some road rash.” 

By the finish, only Nathan van Hooydonck, Sepp Kuss, and Christophe Laporte could claim to be in the same condition they began the day (albeit quite a bit warmer). 

What does this mean for UAE vs Jumbo? 

This Tour has been one of highs and narrowly avoided lows for the Dutch squad. Jumbo recovered well from potential disaster on the cobbles of northern France to execute a climbing raid more effective than any in recent Tour memory, knocking the race’s favorite off his perch and putting their own man in yellow. 

Avoiding lows, as Jumbo has done, comes largely down to team strength. Losing Roglič and Kruijswijk on the same day, with an entire mountain range yet to race, was not part of the plan.

The good news, now, is that the hard part is behind them. Separating Tadej Pogačar from his lead required every ounce of collective strength Jumbo possessed, but holding him off is a slightly easier task. 

The rider dropouts set up a general classification fight on roughly equal footing, at least on paper, each team down to just six riders and each missing a key climber, and UAE an important rouleur. 

UAE, as of the second rest day: 

  • Tadej Pogačar
  • George Bennett
  • Mikkel Bjerg
  • Vegard Stake Laengen
  • Rafal Majka
  • Brandon McNulty
  • Mark Soler
  • Marc Hirschi

Jumbo-Visma, as of the second rest day:

  • Primož Roglič
  • Tiesj Benoot
  • Steven Kruiswijk
  • Sepp Kuss
  • Christophe Laporte
  • Wout van Aert
  • Nathan van Hooydonck
  • Jonas Vingegaard

The lists don’t indicate that UAE is basically down to five, as Marc Hirschi has been battling poor form all race, or even four, as Mikkel Bjerg was ill earlier in the race and is only just recovering. Majka and Soler are solid climbing domestiques and McNulty can do a bit of everything, but there aren’t a lot of bodies to help if things go sideways. 

So Jumbo-Visma still has a strength advantage. With the yellow jersey on their shoulders, they will have to take on much of the burden of control as the race heads into the Pyrenees next week. Their rouleurs remain in tact and Wout van Aert is a force on his own (perhaps he shouldn’t be risking sprints at this point?). The weak spot now comes on the hardest climbing days, where Vingegaard is likely to have only Sepp Kuss for company.

Pogačar would never choose to lose yellow as he did, but given his heavily compromised team, coming from behind does at least take some of the pressure off his domestiques, allowing them to focus solely on helping their leader rather than seeking to exert any sort of control over the peloton as a whole. 

A smaller, weaker Jumbo-Visma sets up opportunities for Pogačar. There’s going to be quite a bit of pressure on Kuss’ shoulders through three days in the Pyrenees. Should he falter, it will leave Vingegaard with a mano-a-mano duel earlier than he’d like. The question is whether Pogačar can take advantage.

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