Alongside reigning champion Tadej Pogacar, the Dutch team will face a rejuvenated team of Ineos Grenadiers who recently won the Critérium du Dauphiné, the Tour de Suisse and the Giro d’Italia.According to Roglič sporting director Merijn Zeeman, several teams now have stronger contenders in the overall standings, while depth within the peloton has improved in recent months, with more and more riders apparently capable of making runs. impressive efforts in the mountains.
While Roglič has opted to train rather than run in recent months, the rest of the Jumbo squad have struggled to match the dominant pre-Tour de France performances they have made in the year. last. The team haven’t achieved a win since the April Amstel Gold Race, and while there are extenuating circumstances – such as Roglič’s absence and Wout van Aert’s illness – Zeeman is still confident that the team remains on track.
“The team is training well,” said Zeeman Cycling news.
“Primož is obviously in the middle of a big training period and it’s going well and there has been progress with the other guys. Of course there were setbacks, with the appendix issue with Wout, and Jonas Vinegaard got injured but now they’re ‘We’re all back to training and I’m training well. I am very confident that we are in very good shape with the team. “
At the Critérium du Dauphiné, without Roglič, the team missed a better result in the general classification, Steven Kruijswijk finishing 15th and Sep Kuss 23rd behind the winner of general Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers). Zeeman was not concerned with the results, arguing that peaking in early June was not a goal for a team hoping to improve on second place overall from last year.
“There is a difference between this year and last year. In 2020, the Dauphiné was two weeks away from the Tour and only five days away, and this year it’s three weeks away from the race. We didn’t prepare them for the Dauphiné, we are preparing them for the Tour so Sep was really good at La Plange but then he exploded on Padun’s wheel.
“If he had run more conservatively he certainly would have been in the top three on the stage, but Sep really needed this race to take the next step and the same goes for Stevie. He is also improving more and more, but it is obvious that the opponents are stronger than last year. It’s certain. Ineos looks very strong and also other teams are improving more and more. We will be good but the opponents are going to be better than in 2020. It’s going to be a big fight. “
Part of the reason Zeeman thinks more teams have reached such a high level this year is because teams have adjusted to the relative normality of a typical racing season – whereas last year teams sank or swam due to COVID-19 restrictions and the global pandemic.
“It’s a normal year again. So last year some teams used corona time the right way and some not so well. Now it’s normal again and in every team there are smart people and they use their experiences to improve and what I see now is that there are more opponents and that they get stronger and stronger. The differences between teams and riders are diminishing. It’s good for sport and it will make for exciting races. “
Several runners have expressed their belief that running speeds have also increased this year.
” Perhaps [they are] a little faster but now there are more runners who can do some speed and some power, ”said Zeeman.
” This is the main. Every team now has guys who can put in that kind of effort. This means that there are a lot of runners with ambitions. “
Jumbo-Visma have already announced their Tour squad and there is no doubt in Zeeman’s mind that Van Aert will be at the start line later this month. The Belgian had a disturbed build up due to his operation, and he was forced to miss the Dauphiné as a result.
Even at 80%, Van Aert is worth taking on the Tour de France, but in recent weeks the Belgian rider has reduced his own chances of success in the race. Zeeman argued that patience is needed and that the rider and his team will not fully understand Van Aert’s goals before the start of the race.
“He had a very serious injury and it really put him back. But he’s a great talent and he’s improving quickly. It’s not an ideal preparation, that’s clear, but the ambitions depend on how quickly you can improve, ”said Zeeman.
“I’m not going to put expectations on him, but he will be very valuable to the team. He may be able to win for himself or he may be able to give us a very strong supporting role with everything else. We’re just using it every day to improve and then we’ll see what happens on the Tour de France.
“If he feels like he can win we’ll always back him with that, but it really depends on how he feels and how quickly he improves. He is 100% fit, has no problems and will be on the Tour. He’s an incredible talent and if anyone can do it, it’s him. I am convinced he can do it, he works hard and every day he gets better.