Jumbo-Visma not rocked by lack of success in opening Tour de France stages

Dutch super-team say they are still on track, despite disappointments and losing time to Tadej Pogačar

Jumbo-Visma during stage three of the Tour de France
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Just 30 miles east of the start of stage three of the Tour de France is the town of Azpeitia. It looks similar to anywhere else in the hills of the Basque Country, surrounded by green vertiginous slopes, with small apartment blocks and lots of red, white and green flags. 

However, unlike Durango, or Eibar, or Amorebieta-Etxano, where the stage began, Azpeitia was the birthplace of a saint. Not just any saint, either, but Ignacio de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and one of the key architects of the counter-reformation.

Bear with me. At the Tour, UAE Team Emirates is like the reformation, trying to disrupt the status quo with their aggressive riding, bringing chaos through Adam Yates and Tadej Pogačar. It seems to be working, too, with the former in the yellow jersey, and the latter already with time over his rivals, early in the Tour. 

By the end of stage three, a seventh into the race, Pogačar already had 11 seconds over last year's winner, Jonas Vingegaard, and the team had already won a stage through Yates.

Jumbo-Visma, meanwhile, have missed out on two stage wins narrowly, and lost that time. Nothing has gone badly wrong, there have been no crashes for them or minutes lost, but they have lost a bit of ground and opportunities have gone begging; opportunities that last year, were seemingly not missed.

It might be top of the team classification at this point, but that is about it at this stage, although Vingegaard is only seventh overall. There were rumours of tension in the team too, with Wout van Aert reacting angrily after he missed out on stage two to Victory Lafay. To add to the intrigue Pogačar was captured mocking Van Aert's actions post-stage, labelling them as "like a child".

However, a day later, all appeared calm at Jumbo, despite Van Aert missing out yet again - this time finishing fifth after his sprint was interrupted by Jasper Philipsen, the stage's winner. 

"Compared with yesterday, I'm relaxed," he joked.

The team have a split strategy, targeting GC with Vingegaard and stage wins with Van Aert, one that is difficult to manage, although the former played down any talk of splits because of this. The image of calm at the team bus post-stage backed this up.

"I think I already did something for Wout," the Dane said on Sunday. "I could have been selfish and pulled with Pogačar, so in that case I was also kind of helping in that I didn't pull.

"For me, I only have to focus on the GC. Of course, we have different goals. I think we're all super disappointed, me as well, and we all wanted Wout to win today."

Jumbo-Visma at the team presentation ahead of stage three of the Tour de France 2023

(Image credit: Getty Images)

For the rest of the Tour, Jumbo-Visma has to fight back, take inspiration from Ignacio, and begin a counter-reformation. All is far from lost. The 2022 Tour started in a similar fashion, with Pogačar in yellow after stage six to Longwy, after gaining time on the cobbles.

It took time, until stage 11, but Jumbo were able to force the Slovenian to crack, and then took time. They have to believe that they can do this once again. Van Aert, too, finished second on the opening three stages before getting that victory on stage four. Good things might be coming.

Van Aert looks in form to win a stage and also help Vingegaard; Vingegaard also does not look too far apart from Pogačar, despite the time differences. The team are all still in the race, too, something Arthur van Dongen, a Jumbo directeur sportif, stressed the importance of on Monday evening.

"We are all still, fingers crossed, not crashed, look to [Enric] Mas, look to [Richard] Carapaz," he said. "No one has crashed, we are in a good position on GC. Yes, we are disappointed because we were really close to the victory today again. We know how it works in the Tour, it is still a long way, and we are still on track for our main goals."

In fact, the team seems happy with its position in the race, despite the gaps.

"We know that Pogačar could have gained more seconds than he gained now, so in that case, we are happy with it," Van Dongen said.

The counter-reformation, so succesful in 2022, has barely begin to rumble in. There is more than enough time for Jumbo to fight back, and make Ignacio proud.

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