"We want to stay ahead of all the trouble all the time" is one of the first things Grischa Niermann, the Jumbo-Visma directeur sportif, says in the team's newly released Tour de France 2021 documentary Plan B, the fall & rise.
It is said ahead of the first stage in Brittany, as he warns his riders to be prepared for chaos. This would have been good advice to heed ahead of a messy opening week which turned the team's race upside down.
Sadly for Neerman, it did not go to plan. Chaos is exactly what happened on that opening day, as one of their number, Tony Martin, was brought down by a spectator carrying a sign. On stage three, their designated leader Primož Roglič crashed heavily, an incident that would see him eventually forced out of the race.
The team ended the race with just four riders in Paris, but with three stage wins for Wout van Aert, one for Sepp Kuss, and second on the overall podium through Jonas Vingegaard. They truly turned it round.
With just over three weeks to go until this year's Tour, the Jumbo doc, published on YouTube last week, is the perfect way to whet your appetite for three weeks in France.
The 52-minute film gives a great insight into the Dutch team's tumultuous 2021 race, as they went from a real low to a high by the end. It was not how they would have envisioned finishing the Tour, but a podium place and four stage wins was not a bad haul.
There is some great foreshadowing from Roglič early on. The Slovenian explains to his teammates that "it’s good luck with a crash on the first day… we survived". Sadly, it was not good luck ultimately for him. He was still in the top ten ahead of stage seven, but was dropped on the road to Le Creusot, a medium mountain day.
The reaction is brutal, but necessarily. Arthur van Dongen, a team coach, says: "It sucks for Primoz, but Jonas is our man now."
It happens that quickly. Fortunately for the team, in Vingegaard they had a more than able deputy, who while not rivalling Tadej Pogačar completely, successfully defended his position on GC around France.
When Roglič is deciding to leave the race, he is filmed mournfully saying: “I also put way too much work into this that I would destroy everything... and get out nothing." His season did not end there, however, and he went on to win his third Vuelta a España in a row. He did not "get out nothing".
Another interesting moment comes on the first rest day. Van Aert says: “I want to go for a stage win for sure… maybe have a closer look at, not the real mountain stages."
He is challenged by a teammate: "Mont Ventoux?"
“I said not the real mountain stages," the Belgian reacts. "But the stages where there is an opportunity to go in the breakaway."
Of course, as we know, Van Aert would go on to triumph on Ventoux, one of the most remarkable victories of his career. He flippantly says :"[I] definitely didn’t see this one coming."
More than everything else in this documentary, however, it is the emotions of the Jumbo riders that are clear to see. Robert Gesink slowly leaving the team hotel in pain after being forced out of the race with injury; Tony Martin, with his face messed up after a crash, still sitting at the team table; Roglič's quiet acceptance that this would not be his year; and Vingegaard's sheer outpouring of happiness when he all but secures third place.
It is well worth a watch, and is sure to get you ready for this year's Tour, where the whole circus starts once again.
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