On the Plateau de Solaison, beyond the finish line of the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, riders slumped over handlebars, sat down against the barriers, and begged soigneurs for water. They’d all been blown away by Jumbo-Visma, and it took a while for them to come around.
When they did, there was a general consensus: they’d effectively been riding a different race.
Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard had dispensed with all other company half way up the hors-catégorie final climb, and crossed the line arm-in-arm to take a one-two on the stage and overall.
“They set a vicious pace at the start with Steven Kruijswijk, then Jonas and Primož just said ‘see ya’, catch you at the top'.”
Haig’s comments could potentially be construed as cynical, but the Australian did not appear to imply any innuendo and could do little more than congratulate his rivals.
“There’s not much else to say other than it’s mighty impressive and well done to them.”
There had been some doubts surrounding Jumbo-Visma heading into the Dauphiné’s mountainous final weekend. Wout van Aert had won two stages and come close to winning three others, while Roglič and Vingegaard were the best placed of the pre-race favourites.
However, at times they appeared stretched, with Roglič’s condition shrouded in mystery following his recent knee injury. The doubts were shared within the peloton, with Tao Geoghegan Hart noting that Roglič was riding “differently” and drifting back through the bunch.
Haig had shared those doubts but on Sunday they too were blown away.
“To be honest, the first couple of days were quite interesting. Like many people I was a bit sort of ‘meh’ about them. But they put all the doubt to bed the last two days, and have been really impressive," he said.
Haig went as far as to label the Jumbo-Visma duo the “clear favourites” for the Tour de France, despite Tadej Pogačar winning the past two editions.
“They’ve got time to go, to do more altitude then come to the Tour de France, so they’re clear favourites at the moment.
“It’ll depend on what Pogačar does at the Tour of Slovenia. We haven’t seen Pogačar in while, so Primož is probably the favourite. But if Pogačar comes out and destroys Slovenia we’ll have a really good battle on our hands.”
Haig looking for top 5 at the Tour
The Dauphiné was very much the Jumbo show, so much so that it was easy to lose sight of the fact that Haig placed fifth overall. What’s more, Bahrain Victorious showed their own strength in depth, with Damiano Caruso sealing fourth place.
Haig explained that he’d worked for the Italian on the previous stage but was given the freedom to race his own race on Sunday, leaving his teammate behind at first but ultimately seeing him again in the final kilometre.
The pair will both head to the Tour de France next month, where Haig has unfinished business, having crashed out with a broken collarbone on stage 3 last year. He came back to finish on the podium of the Vuelta a España and returns to the Tour as a different rider.
“Going into the Tour, I’m realistic, I know I’m not going to be fighting for the win, but if I can do a top five I would be really happy with that,” he said.
“I took bit of a different approach this year. Last year, I came to the Dauphiné in a bit better condition. This year, I went to Tenerife for two weeks again but trained easier intensity-wise, hoping to get better into Tour. Last year, I didn’t get to see but maybe I was going too well leading into it.”
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Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist, and former deputy editor of Cyclingnews, who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.