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Jumbo-Visma dominated at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, getting three stage wins, holding the yellow jersey for seven out of the eight stages, and completely decimating the GC competition with Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard finishing first and second in the overall with a massive gap over third-place Ben O’Connor.
While this is an important pre-Tour de France win for Roglič, the extremely strong performance of his teammate Vingegaard in the final two mountain stages raised questions in my mind about his ability to seriously challenge Tadej Pogačar, and even his status as the team’s clear leader, in the coming Tour de France. Ultimately, we won’t know the answer until the Tour peloton hits the stage 7 ascent of La Planche des Belles Filles, but as much as a victory can be cast as a negative, I’m officially concerned about Roglič’s prospect for a Tour de France overall win.
Meanwhile, across the Alps in Switzerland, Remco Evenepoel and Aleksandr Vlasov kicked off an intriguing GC battle while Ineos’ veterans Adam Yates and Geraint Thomas took important first steps towards solidify their Tour leadership and the favorites struggled against the unknowns to win over the race’s first two stages.
Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 7 & 8 Notes:
32.2km: Wout van Aert, the race leader, is dropped towards the day’s toughest climb. I was a bit surprised by this considering just how strong he looked in the time trial and earlier road stages.
2.8km: On the final climb, Jonas Vingegaard increases the pace, which immediately reduces the GC bunch.
2.7km: We can see the quality of Vingegaard when quality GC riders like Jack Haig, Damiano Caruso, and Tao Geoghegan Hart are immediately in trouble and dropped.
1.5km: Roglič unleashes his patented super-attack inside the final 2kms and immediately gets separation. However, we can see Vingegaard doesn’t pull off and blow up, but simply looks around to watch for and mark riders going off in pursuit.
1.4km: Roglič immediately decreases the time gap by close to 10-seconds in just .1kms and certainly looks back to his normal supernova level.
Finish: But, we get a hint that something is slightly off when he is only able to close an additional 10-seconds inside the final 1.4kms and his own teammate Vingegaard in his close pursuit with Ben O’Connor. Vingegaard looks so strong that he somewhat inadvisably pulls O’Connor, a GC rival to his own teammate, along to the finish line and slightly decreases the gap.
9.2km: On the final climb of the race, Jumbo is firmly in control with both GC contenders (Roglič and Vingegaard) at the front behind Kruijswijk setting a hard pace.
5.7km: After setting pace for kms, Kruijswijk unleashes an impressive acceleration, and shreds the group behind, leaving only Roglič, Vingegaard and O’Connor.
5.4km: Kruijswijk peels off and Vingegaard continues putting the rest of the field into the shredder by further increasing the pace.
5.3km: This quickly dispatches O’Connor and Vingegaard continues to press on to the finish line with just Roglič on his wheel. This is a somewhat absurdly long way from the finish to have blown this up, but frankly, it looks easy for Vingegaard.
Finish: Vingegaard pulls Roglič to the finish line and when we attempt to grab his teammate’s hand so they can cross the finish line together, it becomes obvious just how much more Roglič is suffering due to the high pace. This nice gesture ends up looking slightly awkward and reminds me of the tense Froome/Wiggins frenemy dynamic in the early Sky teams. Despite being dropped 5kms from the finish line, O’Connor crosses only 15-seconds back.
Stage Top 5:
1) Jonas Vingegaard +0
2) Primož Roglič +0
3) Ben O’Connor +15
4) Esteban Chaves +53
5) Ruben Guerreiro +53
Final GC Standings:
1) Primož Roglič
2) Jonas Vingegaard +40
3) Ben O’Connor +1’41
Dauphiné Takeaways & What to Watch at Suisse:
1) Jumbo-Visma has clearly corrected their issues from the Giro d’Italia, and are flying ahead of the Tour de France…
- …But the extremely weak field they faced at the Dauphiné shouldn’t have them popping the champagne just yet.
- You can only race the competition that shows up, and Ben O’Connor was 4th at last year’s Tour de France, but come July, everything will boil down to a single question: can they beat Tadej Pogačar?
2) Primož Roglič gets a big overall, but I’m still not convinced he is ‘back’
- The Slovenian announced that ‘he is back’ after riding into the race lead on stage 7, but his relatively flat time trial performance on stage 5, and the fact that he looked somewhat outclassed by his teammate Vingegaard on the climbs still has me wondering if his form is truly up to a direct challenge with Pogačar in just a few weeks’ time.
- For example, while his ride on stage 7 essentially won him the race, he ‘only’ put 14-seconds into O’Connor by the top of the climb, failed to execute his infamous ‘mow down’ move on Carlos Verona, and struggled again on stage 8 to put massive time into O’Connor.
3) Jonas Vingegaard looks incredible and far better than he did before his surprise 2nd place overall ride at the 2021 Tour de France
- Without his slight underperformance in the stage 5 TT that saw him lose 30-seconds to Roglič, Vingegaard likely would have won this race and opened up a messy can of worms for his Jumbo team prior to the Tour de France.
- With this in mind, they likely won’t be too upset that he wasn’t able to execute better against the clock.
- However, the fact that he seemed to be breathing through his nose while Roglič attacked on stage 7 and the strength of his acceleration that dropped Jack Haig, Damiano Caruso, Tao Geoghegan Hart, and Ben O’Connor, and his ability to pull his teammate to the line on stage 8 will still plant seeds of doubts in many minds about who the stronger rider at Jumbo is prior to the Tour.
4) The thrashing Jumbo gave out was expected, but still shocking in its scope
- We knew before the race that they were the strongest team here and that they would likely win the overall competition, but even with this in mind, I was surprised that nobody else was even in the same time zone.
- Outside of O’Connor, nobody finished within 2-minutes in the GC, which is somewhat shocking in a relatively short stage race with only two real mountain stages.
5) Ineos was particularly poor
- They still have a chance to show signs of life at the Tour de Suisse, but while Jumbo duly passed their pre-Tour pass/fail test at the Dauphiné, Ineos looked more like a team who deployed their top resources to the Giro and have little left for the Tour.
- I was willing to give Tao Geoghegan Hart a second look as a GC contender after Jai Hindley’s recent Giro win retroactively raised the stock of Geoghegan Hart’s 2020 Giro victory, but he still appears to be struggling to rediscover the form he possessed two years ago and almost certainly won’t be a viable option for the British superteam in July.
6) Ben O’Connor should be a major podium contender at this year’s Tour de France
- The Australian rider finished a surprise 4th place at the 2021 Tour de France after gaining a massive chunk of time in an early breakaway. While this appeared to be a high water mark due to how difficult it is to replicate results generated from breakaways, he appears to be back and better in 2022 and has to be considered a contender for the Tour podium.
- Highlighting his level is that in two summit finishes, he lost only 29-seconds in real (non-time-bonus time) to Roglič.
7) Steven Kruijswijk might have ridden his way back into Jumbo’s Tour de France team
- Kruijswijk, who had struggled in recent years and appeared to be over the hill at 35-years-old, looked incredible at this Dauphiné and served as a valuable climbing domestique for Roglič over the final weekend.
- After Van Aert, Vingegaard and Roglič take up three of the team’s eight total slots, this performance will be key to allowing him to be included in the remaining five rider slots that will be contested between himself Sepp Kuss, Rohan Dennis, Mike Teunissen, Robert Gesink, Tiesj Benoot, Nathan van Hooydonck, and Christophe Laporte.
What to Watch at the Tour de Suisse
8) Remco’s return to high mountain GC racing
- While he has won four stage races plus the climb-heavy Liège-Bastogne-Liège since dropping out of the 2021 Giro d’Italia after struggling in the race’s high mountain stages, none have been contested on seriously long and difficult alpine climbs and he appeared to struggle at the recent Itzulia Basque Country when ramps were steep and sustained.
- This coming week, which features two seriously difficult summit finishes, will be a massive test for the 22-year-old and give us a hint as to whether he will be able to transition into a full-fledged three-week stage racer.
9) Ineos’ Tour de France GC auditions
- Despite arriving with uber-talented semi-youngster Dani Martínez, the veterans Adam Yates and Geraint Thomas are the only two Ineos riders within a minute of the race’s GC lead.
- While we still have a lot left at this race, this likely tells us that the team’s GC focus at the Tour will be solely between Yates and Thomas.
10) The stage win battle of the unknowns vs the veterans
- Veterans like Jakob Fuglsang and Alberto Bettiol have clearly arrived fit and ready to win but have so far found themselves outdone by unknowns in the first two stages (Stephen Williams and Andreas Leknessund).
- This continues the theme of extreme parody we’ve seen within the sport recently and it will be interesting to see if these slightly older riders continue to struggle against younger unknown for the rest of the stage race.
- This also puts extreme pressure on both the Israel-Premier Tech and EF teams, who are in rough and tumble relegation battles, have bet extensively on older talent, and need as many wins as they can get to stay inside the WorldTour for the 2023 season.