Euphoria around Wout van Aert and Primoz Roglic should not blind Jumbo-Visma

For the second time in three weeks, they performed together on a unique stage. Wout van Aert and Marianne Vos. The new royal couple from Jumbo-Visma. After they achieved the first double victory for the supermarket formation in Ghent-Wevelgem, it now became a double home victory in the Amstel Gold Race, in the country where the team and the main sponsor are based. Winning a great classic twice with both men and women marks the team’s dominance in contemporary cycling.Since the great revolution in the team started in the autumn of 2016, yellow and black has taken on a more dominant role in cycling every year. In the autumn of that year, it was Ton van Veen (CFO of Jumbo Supermarkten), Robert van der Wallen (former owner of BrandLoyalty) and Arno de Jong (CMO Dutch Lottery) who, during a meeting in the Jumbo Food Market in Breda, put their heads together and examined the structure. Every stone was turned over in all areas. People were critically asked whether it could not be better. This Supervisory Board also dared to ask aloud whether team manager Richard Plugge and head coach Merijn Zeeman had lended a helping hand enough.The business insight led to a policy change in the team. Van Veen ensured peace in the cycling team by enforcing a contract for an indefinite period within his company Jumbo Supermarkten. Perhaps the most important approach was that they agreed to only go for the very best. People should not be humble, but walk with their chest forward through cycling country. The supreme was to be pursued in all areas. Whether in guidance, training, scouting, nutrition, material or attracting new riders. The team had to grow from the ugly duckling in the WorldTour into the proud peacock of the peloton.

This transformation was accelerated by the development of Primož Roglič and Dylan Groenewegen, which was also surprising for the team. It is a great credit to the team that it has been able to develop these two talents into two world top performers. But also that the team has discarded all modesty. For example, in 2018 it dared to get involved with the biggest teams to attract Wout van Aert. And also with the talents they no longer looked at riders from the second line, but tried to attract the best of a new batch.

In less than five years, Jumbo-Visma has grown into the best team in the world. The success of the policy (and guidance) can now also be seen in the women’s team that was established this winter. Of course Marianne Vos is a rare champion who has been successful in every environment. However, Jumbo-Visma’s professional approach has ensured that it has again managed to take a step back to the very highest level this year. She had never managed to win the Amstel Gold Race, but after her successes on the Cauberg during the European Championship on the road (2006) and World Championship on the road (2012), she now also won the only Dutch classic.

A few hours later it was 1700 meters past the top of the Cauberg prize for Wout van Aert. In the colors of Jumbo-Visma, he has developed into the most regular one-day cyclist in the peloton in 2.5 years. And with his sprint ability, time trial abilities and climbing possibilities, he may well be the best rider in the world. It is great how he immediately switched after the cancellation of ‘his’ Paris-Roubaix.

At first he wanted to ride all four hill classics (Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, Walloon Arrow and Liège-Bastogne-Liège), but the team convinced him that his spring was too full. His series Strade Bianche (fourth), Tirreno (second), Milan-San Remo (third), Gent-Wevelgem (first), Ronde van Vlaanderen (sixth), Brabantse Pijl (second) and Amstel Gold Race (first) is impressive. Although the Kempenaar has already proven after the Corona lockdown last year that he can continuously perform at an extremely high level from the beginning of August to mid-October.

Tour victory
The very highest that Jumbo-Visma strives for is the final victory in the Tour de France. Last year they were already close with Roglič. This year they will try again with the Slovenian to bring the yellow to Paris. And in their preparation to realize that ultimate dream, the scientific approach will become even more important. Roglič, for example, will not ride any more races after Liège-Bastogne-Liège until the Tour de France starts in Brest. This means that he will not be racing for two months and will start the Tour de France with only 17 racing days in the legs.

The question is whether the team is not taking this a step too far. Based on their experiences with Roglič, the coaching team concludes that the two-time winner of the Vuelta a España always comes out well from an altitude training camp. The last week in a Grand Tour has been one of his few weaker spots so far. That is why they now want to send Roglič directly from the training camp in Tignes to the Tour.

It proves once again that the coaching / training increasingly determines the route of the team. The challenge is to be one step ahead of the scientific process every time. And so the search for new marginal gains is an increasing pursuit.

Of course there is now no reason to criticize this policy. But you have to stay vigilant and don’t forget to keep both feet on the ground in the euphoria. Isn’t Jumbo-Visma slowly getting too far away from real cycling? You should always want to improve, but not improve in order to improve. You should not go overboard in your working method.

However successful certain altitude training courses, nutritional patterns and training schedules may be for some riders on the team, it does not mean that this is the best way to Rome for every rider on the team.

Just like Primož Roglič, Steven Kruijswijk, Robert Gesink and Marianne Vos, Wout van Aert is a person who can live maniacally for his profession. They can follow a certain way of life like a monk. And it is precisely that very detailed, training and nutrition-oriented approach that works well for these riders. For others, such as Tom Dumoulin, the controlled training method does not seem to bring that ultimate cycling happiness. And if you put Mathieu van der Poel at Jumbo-Visma, he would very quickly feel deeply unhappy in this straightjacket.

The euphoria surrounding Van Aert and Roglič should not blind Jumbo-Visma that the path of these two champions is the only route to success. And that any innovative scientific approach will be successful. A number of riders have already hinted in recent times that they question the usefulness of the altitude training courses in February and March. Nevertheless, the staff declare training at height more and more sacred. Sometimes, however, it is better to stay a little closer to the old, familiar rather than keep experimenting.

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