Team Jumbo-Visma began the Critérium du Dauphiné with the same winning flair they showed over the weekend at the Tour de l'Ain and Milan-San Remo, with team co-leader Tom Dumoulin admitted that their plan for the opening stage had been to back San Remo winner Wout van Aert to the hilt.
The stage to Saint-Christo-en-Jarez was the first of five summit finishes at race, though notably easier than those to come. As a result, the Dutch squad focussed their resources around Van Aert, rather than one of their pure climbing options.
"Wout was our choice for today. He might not get too many more opportunities in the coming weeks because the rest of the Dauphiné is too tough and at the Tour de France we'll only be going for GC, so we decided to go for him today," said Dumoulin at the stage finish.
"He's in amazing shape and I'm really happy that we were all committed to that goal and that we pulled it off."
The Dutchman, racing for only the second time since last June, played down a suggestion that Jumbo-Visma have become the new bosses of the peloton but added that the team will continue to look for victory opportunities whenever they present themselves.
"We don't necessarily need to think of ourselves in that way, but we're here to win races if we have the legs," he said. "It's a good sign for the days to come, although they will be completely different."
Like co-leader Primož Roglič, who won the Tour de l'Ain in convincing fashion, Dumoulin has his eye on the Dauphiné's overall title.
"We're here to win the overall if it's possible. Primož showed that he's in great shape at the Tour de l'Ain, I hope that I'm improving, and Stevie [Kruiswijk] is as well," said Dumoulin. "I'll definitely be going for it, full gas. If I manage that my condition will get better too. I'm feeling good."
Dumoulin believes Jumbo-Visma's trident of leaders are working well together, and that the success they're enjoying is boosting confidence and putting them in a nice position from a tactical perspective.
"If your one leader is good enough to contend that's fine, but it's definitely a nice luxury to have options, to be in the position where you can decide during the race who to support," said the Dutchman.
The Dauphiné's second stage to the summit of the Col de Porte looks likely to provide Jumbo with another opportunity to underline how well they're making their wealth of options work in their favour.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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