As the 2020 Tour de France approaches, one of the major talking points continues to be the rivalry between Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma.
Both teams showcased their extraordinary strength during their clashes at the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de l’Ain, and their respective leaders Egan Bernal and Primož Roglič go into the Tour as the clear frontrunner in the race to win the yellow jersey.
Ineos have, of course, been the dominant team of the modern era. Bernal’s victory last year was their seventh in the eight years since Bradley Wiggins’ triumph back in 2012, and each year their domineering, black-clad riders have beaten their opponents into submission with attritional, brutally effective racing.
But Dutch squad Jumbo-Visma has rapidly built a squad of comparable strength, and now look ready to challenge Ineos’ long-held supremacy.
So, which team is stronger? We compare their line-ups for the Tour man-for-man, and assess which is likely to have the edge over the next three weeks.
Rouleur: Dylan van Baarle v Amund Grøndhal Jansen
Jansen was a late replacement in Jumbo-Visma’s line-up for the injured Steven Kruijswijk, who will be a huge loss for the team in the mountains having finished third overall last year. Jansen offers something completely different, a rouleur rather than a climber who can help look after Roglič from potential hazards on flatter stages such as crosswinds.
Though talented, the 26-year-old is not yet as accomplished as Ineos’ reliable Van Baarle, who impressed in his first Tour for the team last year. With a slightly lighter build, the Dutchman will also be able to contribute more on the uphills.
Verdict: VAN BAARLE
Early pace-setter: Jonathan Castroviejo v Robert Gesink
As a former top five finisher overall, Gesink has certainly enjoyed a more decorated career than Castroviejo, but the latter has been the ascendancy the past few years while the former has declined.
Since his first Tour appearance for Ineos in 2018, Castroviejo has been a vital cog in the team’s machine, having improved considerably as a climber while retaining the rouleur engine that once made him a time trial specialist. Gesink, on the contrary, can still do a job setting the pace on the lower slopes of climbs, but is far from being the force he once was.
Climbing domestique 1: Pavel Sivakov v Sepp Kuss
There’s little to choose between the teams’ youngest climbing super-domestiques. Both are developing talents set to make their Tour debut, Sivakov aged 23 and Kuss also 23; both have already made an impression in the other Grand Tours, with Sivakov riding steadily to finish ninth at last year’s Giro, and Kuss helping Roglič to overall victory at last year’s Vuelta while also landing a stage win for himself in the mountains. Both were their leader’s most valuable domestique at the Dauphiné earlier this month, where they finished 11th and 10th overall respectively.
Kuss’ scintillating ride to win the final stage of that race, however, suggests that the American might just have the edge.
Climbing domestique 2: Andrey Amador v George Bennett
Unlike most of the match-ups between the two teams, this one is easier to call. Amador has a wide skill set, including first-class descending technique, but several years have passed since he was a climber capable of finishing in the top-10 of Grand Tours, and he can’t match what an on-form Chris Froome or Geraint Thomas would have offered.
Bennett, on the other hand, is in the form of his life, excelling in Italian Classics to win Gran Piemonte and finish second at Il Lombardia, having earlier offered exceptional support for Roglič at the Tour de l’Ain while finishing fifth overall himself. If the New Zealander can carry that form into the Tour, Jumbo-Visma should have the numerical advantage in the mountains.
All-rounder: Michał Kwiatkowski v Wout van Aert
It says much for the overall strength of both these teams that stars of the calibre of Kwiatkowski and Van Aert will ride in supporting roles. Van Aert’s success in Italy earlier this month, where he won both Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo, makes him arguably the best rider of 2020 so far, and he translated that form into exemplary teamwork at the Dauphiné.
His opposite number, however, is perhaps the best domestique in the business. Kwiatkowski has everything — including an aptitude for climbing that Van Aert lacks — and has during his three previous Tour appearances for Ineos demonstrated a selflessness unmatched by any other riders of his ability.
Road captain: Luke Rowe v Tony Martin
The role of the road captain is to provide leadership in the peloton, and requires a smart racing head as well as strong physical condition. Both Rowe and Martin (who, incidentally, were simultaneously kicked out of last year’s race for an altercation on stage 17) have bags of experience when it comes to the Tour, Martin especially — this will be his 12th successive appearance at the race.
But whereas the German has rarely ridden in service of a GC bid, Rowe has made a speciality of it, and boasts a remarkable 100 per cent record of having been part of the yellow jersey-winning team on each of his five appearances. That know-how will be invaluable.
Deputy leader: Richard Carapaz v Tom Dumoulin
In the event that things go wrong for their designated leaders, both teams have accomplished Grand Tour champions poised to deputise as Plan B options. The 2019 Giro winner Carapaz and 2017 Giro winner Dumoulin are likely to be their team’s final surviving domestique on the mountain stages, and will seek to retain as high a position on GC as possible as well as offering assistance to their leader.
Drafted in to replace the misfiring Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, Carapaz isn’t making his Tour debut in ideal circumstances, while Dumoulin would have expected to be a co-leader were it not for his lengthy absence from racing following a crash last year. There were signs at the Dauphiné that he’s approaching his best form, however, which would probably make him the stronger rider.
Leader: Egan Bernal v Primož Roglič
As defending champion, Egan Bernal has the greater Tour pedigree, even if Roglič’s victory in a weaker Vuelta a España field a few months later proved his Grand Tour credentials. In terms of form, though, Roglič clearly has the edge, having defeated his Colombian rival for overall victory at the Tour de l’Ain, and getting the better of him on both the Dauphiné’s first mountain top finishes before both riders pulled out due to injury.
This match-up is therefore a tricky one to call, and could depend on how each rider recovers from the problems sustained at the Dauphiné.
Overall: INEOS 4-3 JUMBO-VISMA
Jumbo-Visma might have more strength in depth when it comes to the mountains, but Ineos retain their advantage in other terrain and have a more well-rounded line-up. Their experience of having won so many Tours before, and in successfully overcoming the day-to-day trials this race throws at you, could prove decisive.