Jumbo-Visma will back Jonas Vingegaard's top-ten aspirations in this year's Tour de France but have insisted that Primož Roglič will return next year and aim to win the race after crashing out in 2021.
Roglič came down heavily in the first week and struggled before abandoning the race on the eve of stage 9. The Slovenian came into the race as the joint favourite, having finished second last year and won back-to-back editions of the Vuelta a España in 2019 an 2020.
"He’ll come back to the Tour next year," his Jumbo-Visma director Merijn Zeeman told Cyclingnews on the Tour’s first rest day in the Alps.
"That’s the race where he wants to show that he’s the number one in the world. He will come back. Of course we’ll discuss it all at the end of the season and how we’ll plan it but I have no doubt that he’ll come back again."
Although Roglič escaped any serious injuries in his Tour de France crash, his body still needs time to heal before the Tokyo Olympics later this month and August’s Vuelta a España, where he will aim for a third straight title.
According to Zeeman, the team leader just needs a time-out before he can begin training again, and the team director has no doubt that Roglič will be ready for his next racing appointment.
"I expect that he goes to the Vuelta but we need to see how quickly he can recover and how quickly he feels energized again for training. We also need to see if his head is ready because the Vuelta is coming quicker than you think.
"He’s such a tough guy though, both mentally and physically, so we have no doubt that he will come back. He’s incredibly popular and the fans give him so much confidence. He wants to return so he can do beautiful things for them again."
The big question at this point is whether Roglič would have been able to match current race leader Tadej Pogačar. The UAE Team Emirates rider has been untouchable in the race over the last week, with a stage win and a huge lead over a number of his rivals.
Roglič has been Pogačar’s equal on so many occasions over the last few seasons that Zeeman believes that the race would be a very different affair had his rider not crashed.
"That’s the million-dollar question. On the first weekend, they were the real rivals and their level was really close to each other. I was very impressed by Pogačar’s level and it’s hard to say if Primož could have followed but for sure he would have responded to the attacks.
"Then it’s a case of whether Pogačar would have continued if he couldn’t drop Roglič. The race would have been very different. Pogačar wouldn’t have dropped Roglič like he did Carapaz. That’s for sure."
New team leader Vingegaard
With Vingegaard sitting fourth in the overall standings in his first Tour de France, Jumbo-Visma at least have something to focus on in what has been a disappointing Tour de France so far.
The 24-year-old Dane was drafted into the Tour team after Tom Dumoulin took a break from the sport but this is only his second Grand Tour to date. A crash on stage 9 was a blow but he has still managed to keep pace with the rest of his top-ten rivals.
Zeeman wants to back his young rider for the remainder of the race but has stressed that this is primarily a learning experience for the all-rounder.
"He’s the guy that we’re working for now but he’s come along way with us already so we’re not putting too much pressure on him. We’re going to help him and support him but our plans for him are about the future.This is an experience that will help, and it will accelerate his learning but really we’re not putting pressure on him.
"It doesn’t matter how it ends; it’s all about his education. We want him to learn how to be up there every day for three weeks, on the flat stages and of course in the mountains and the time trial. If we succeed in that then I’m confident that he can keep his level. We’ll fight for it and just see how it ends in Paris."
Zeeman did admit that his team haven't been as dominant in the Tour as they have in the last two editions. Losing Roglič was certainly a blow and, while a number of their other riders have also crashed, and Wout van Aert had surgery just a few months ago, the Dutch squad have either dropped off slightly, other teams have caught up, or there has been a combination of both factors.
Riders in the bunch have talked about the pace being much higher than in previous years and climbing performances have certainly seemed to have improved across the board but Zeeman is confident that his riders will come good in the second half of the race.
"Not many teams would have lost a guy like Primož and still had a guy this close to the podium. When I look to the first week of racing, we were very active and helped to make the race.
"You’re right that Stevie [Kruijswijk] and Sepp [Kuss] are not like they were last year or the year before but I’m sure that has something to do with the extreme cold in the Alps. I expect that we’ll see them again in the heat and we’ll continue to animate and play our part in the race. We’re not as dominant as we were last year but we’re still up there with the best."
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