Cycling fans, riders and even race leader Tadej Pogačar admitted to being shocked by the result of Saturday’s Tour de France individual time trial, which saw Pogačar pass Primož Roglič in the yellow jersey on the slopes of La Planche des Belles Filles.
Well, we can add one more person to this group: Jumbo-Visma Managing Director, Richard Plugge.
On Sunday, Plugge admitted that he assumed Roglič’s 57-second lead over Pogačar before the time trial was enough to keep the race lead in Paris.
“We were amazed. We thought 57 seconds was enough, ”Plugge said. “It was a mistake to think that, that’s clear. We were really surprised at what we saw when Pogačar was so strong. I think Roglič was not at his best time trial, but not at his worst time trial, so I think we walked up to the wall called Pogačar and he was really strong, and we have to live with it.
Jumbo-Visma was the strongest team in the Tour de France 2020, with three stage wins and 11 days in yellow during the race. The yellow team also controlled the tempo for many of the toughest days in the mountains, and their all-star formation of Roglič, Tom Dumoulin, Sepp Kuss and Wout van Aert dominated the lead group in the GC battles.
Plugge, 50, is the architect behind the team’s steady growth over the past few seasons. The team finished fourth and fifth in the 2018 Tour de France and rose to the podium in 2019, when Steven Kruijswijk finished third. Winning the race seemed like the next logical step for the team and Plugge confirmed that anything other than victory was a disappointment this year.
“We were here for a higher goal, and we didn’t achieve it,” Plugge said. “Yes, we can be proud of our performance here, the way we raced and the three stage wins. But we didn’t reach our goal and we have to live with it. And now it’s disappointing for everyone.
Plugge said his advice to the team was, “Come together and come out with your head held high and show that we still have guts. ”
Roglič vs Pogačar became the focal point of the Tour de France 2020 in the first mountain stages, as Pogačar relentlessly attacked in the Pyrenees to try to erase a 1:21 gap he suffered in crosswinds on stage 7. As the race progressed, other GC favorites, including defending champion Egan Bernal, simply fell as the two Slovenians competed for extra seconds at each stage.
Roglič often rode alongside Pogačar in the top attacks as Bernal and other riders languished behind.
Plugge refused to question the team’s strategy throughout the race, which focused on getting bonus seconds on climbs before the Alps. Bernal, he said, was a great threat, as was Pogačar.
“We did what we could to save as many seconds as possible on Bernal at the start – it wasn’t just Pogačar. He and Bernal were the two main contenders we saw up front, ”Plugge said. “We tried to put that many seconds into them, and it worked pretty well we thought, with the 57 seconds. And we did a great job. Then you can say that maybe you did something wrong, but we’ll have to analyze that for tomorrow.
Pogačar’s dazzling time trial came as a surprise as the 21-year-old looked tiring on the stages in the Alps. But Roglič’s day off was another surprise.
In the moments following Saturday’s stage, Roglič admitted he was not at his best for the individual time trial, which included 30 kilometers of hilly terrain, followed by the dreaded kilometer climb of La Board of the Beautiful Girls. He was still fifth on the day, but gave up almost two minutes to Pogačar.
Even his team-mate Jumbo-Visma van Aert noted that Roglič lacked his usual consistent high-cadence snap on the steep climb.
“It’s a combination of Pogačar which rode really fantastic while Primož did not reach his normal level which guarantees this result,” van Aert told the Dutch site. NOS.nl.
This isn’t the heartbreaking first loss of the grand tour for Jumbo-Visma. In 2016, Kruijswijk seemed to have an iron grip on the maglia rosa of the Giro d’Italia, only to crash into a snowbank at the top of Colle dell’Angello and give way to Colombian rider Esteban Chaves. Vincenzo Nibali finally took the victory. And in 2019, Roglič fell off the pink jersey in a late implosion in the same race.
Plugge said the team’s return from the 2016 experience will only help them overcome the disappointment of the 2020 Tour de France.
“We survived a few years as a team and we grew a little higher each year, so we will continue to do so,” he said. “We also had it in 2016 with Kruijswijk in the Giro, and it was also devastating. Now, as a team, we are more complete and more stable and we have a better basis to continue to grow.