For a third year in a row, Primož Roglič has one big goal for his season: the Tour de France. The Slovenian will be hoping it is third time lucky at the race, after the shock of being beaten at the last by Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) in 2020 and then being forced out through injury last year.
This time, however, it is different. Roglič heads into this Tour being one of three competing interests in his Jumbo-Visma team; he is no longer the clear, sole figurehead. Alongside him is Jonas Vingegaard, the Dane who ably filled in for him last year, finishing second, who is looking to do the same again, and Wout van Aert, who could win almost every stage, and is targeting the green jersey.
In this age of eight-man Tour squads, it is strange to see such a split strategy. Roglič and Vingegaard both going for general classification is one thing, you can see how that works, but Van Aert being thrown into the mix too makes it interesting.
Asked about it at the Jumbo-Visma press conference in Copenhagen on Wednesday morning, just two days before the race starts, Roglič implied that everyone knows that yellow is the team's main aim this year.
"Wout is a guy that is 100% dedicated to the whole team," the Slovenian said. "We help each other, we know why we are here, we know what is our biggest goal. When he has a free role, it is a big challenge for him to go for green."
Green and yellow are two divergent goals, however. The last time the same team won both jerseys in the same Tour was 1997, when Jan Ullrich won overall, and Erik Zabel won the points classification.
Van Aert is a huge asset for Roglič and Vingegaard throughout the race, the kind of rider who can stick with them on the flat and medium mountains, protecting them. Therefore, if there are times where he is forgoing his team objectives to collect points, or to try and win stages, this is where issues might arise.
"I don’t see a problem with combining these two goals," Van Aert said, however. "I think I showed in the previous editions of the Tour that I’m able to combine a lot of tasks.
"Going for the yellow jersey is the dream of our team, of this group, which we have been hunting for a few years now. I’m really looking forward to contributing to that team effort. For sure the green jersey is something that will take effort now, and this year I will have a slightly different role to catch as many points as possible."
The Belgian spoke of times he might be helping the team win stages, but also going up the road to collect intermediate sprint points. Jumbo-Visma will be hoping they can balance out everyone's interests.
The decision is reflected in the squad selection, with Christophe Laporte, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Tiesj Benoot there to help Van Aert, while Steven Kruijswijk and Sepp Kuss will assist Roglič and Vingegaard in the mountains.
"There will be days where Wout has to do the sprint, but for sure me and Primož will get the help we need," Vingegaard said. "Hopefully we can succeed with this."
Working together to beat Tadej Pogačar
It is clear that Vingegaard and Roglič have warmth for each other. The pair have just spent a fortnight together at altitude in Tignes, preparing for the Tour, but also just generally hanging out.
"Primož and I are good friends, also outside of bike racing," Vingegaard explained. "We enjoy each other's company, and also our families. We can sit down and have a beer on the balcony some days, and we have just enjoyed the time together."
They are hoping that their collective strength can rival that of Pogačar, the man who has won the last two editions of the Tour, last year's in an incredibly comprehensive manner.
"If we do the best all together, we're a strong team and have a lot of qualities individually. As long as we work together, doing as good as possible, we believe we can beat him," Roglič said.
They are not entertaining the possibility of a rivalry emerging between them at this stage, preferring to think about the work they can do together to try and halt Pogačar. They are keen to let the road decide.
"A lot of things can happen," Vingegaard said. "Both for us, and everyone else. For us, we have to survive the first week, and then after the first week we will have a look and take the status. We really want to go with two leaders, and we believe we can challenge Pogačar in the end."
Van Aert echoed the idea that Jumbo have strength from multiple leaders, while others are relying on one figurehead.
"The past shows very often that it's a good thing to have more leaders than one," he said. "A lot of things can happen, bad crashes and bad luck, so I see this as a huge advantage that we have more leaders in the team than only one.
"Hopefully we get through the first hectic week with both Jonas and Primož in good shape. We will try to give Pogačar competition. Better to have a strong team to fight against him, and with two leaders I think that’s a huge advantage."
It might be a tricky plan, but Jumbo-Visma will be hoping to pull it off. As at Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné, the team will be planning for yellow and green come the end.
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