Giro, Tour and Vuelta, why did Jumbo-Visma win everything?
2023 has been the perfect year for Jumbo-Visma, winning in practically every terrain and achieving a full house in the most coveted spoils for the squads such as the Grand Tours. Triumphs that are supported by a solid team that only gets better with each passing season. However, with a view to 2024, it seems that a threat is growing with the great investment of Lidl-Trek.
Jumbo-Visma, kings of the cycling universe
With the victory of Sepp Kuss in La Vuelta a España 2023, seconded on the podium by the two leaders of the team, a season of almost absolute domination is certified in which they have conquered not only the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France but also a good number of other races.
A dominance that even in the best years of Team Sky we can't remember and that, as too often happens in the world of sport, has been supported by a very strong investment in previous years that has allowed them to acquire some of the best riders in the world. Even, as has been demonstrated in this edition of La Vuelta, their best support riders have the level to be able to win.
However, in the Giro d'Italia they did not have it all their own way, having to fight against a solid INEOS Grenadiers that had the race in their hands until the last minute, as well as benefiting from the withdrawal of Remco Evenepoel, who seemed to be the favorite for the final victory, and from the efficiency of Primoz Roglic who, except in La Vuelta, has won everything he has raced.
Although the Giro d'Italia could be said that they were caught with a point of fortune, they went to the Tour de France with all the artillery and a Jonas Vingegaard who had taken a path and a preparation to the French race almost perfect. Despite facing another of the great geniuses of the moment, Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, the injury he suffered during Liège-Bastogne-Liège took its toll on the race and, once again, the solid Jumbo-Visma squad made the difference in allowing Jonas Vingegaard to finish the job.
Of what happened in La Vuelta a España, we can add little. The domination has been such, practically from the first serious contact with the mountains in a stage with a finish in Javalambre that, seen in hindsight, has been the real key day of the race. A race that they have controlled at ease to the extent that on the last mountain day none of their rivals dared or had the strength to make the slightest move.
We were saying that the strength of Jumbo-Visma is based on a solid squad where its classics riders are involved in the Grand Tours to give their all on the flat days and even on those with broken terrain. We are talking about names like Tiesj Benoot, Christophe Laporte or Dylan van Baarle. But also with a tremendous line-up when the road goes uphill with names like Wilco Kelderman or Attila Valter. And, above all, the two great road captains, two riders who could single-handedly captain any team they wanted. On the one hand, we are talking about a monster of the stature of Wout van Aert who, despite not enjoying his best season, has no qualms about working for the team and, of course, the brand new La Vuelta winner Sepp Kuss, a luxury cyclist capable of accompanying his leader until the decisive moment of the hardest stages and who this season has been the common denominator of the victories in the three big ones.
And it's not just La Vuelta that has been Jumbo-Visma territory. No less than 62 victories have been won by the Dutch squad in 2023. A count that started with Australian Rohan Dennis in the second stage of the Tour Down Under back in January and that, waiting to add some more in the remaining month and a little bit of the season, closes for the moment Sepp Kuss' Vuelta a España.
In between we find almost all the one-week tours: Tirreno-Adriatico, Itzulia, Volta a Catalunya, Dauphiné, Vuelta a Burgos, Tour of Britain. Only Paris-Nice, which was won by a portentous Tadej Pogacar, was the only one of the big bites that escaped them.
In the classics, another of the team's specialities, the season turned out to be more discreet despite the great start that Dylan Van Baarle had made by winning Omloop Het Niewsblad. However, Wout van Aert could do little against Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogacar, who had become a flandrien in the two big events of the spring: Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and the week of the Ardennes was not too fortunate for the Dutchman either.
Neither INEOS Grenadiers nor UAE Team Emirates, the other two big World Tour teams, have been able to match the Dutch squad. In the case of the British, they have a solid and well distributed squad but they lack a top level leader with a Geraint Thomas who has already given his best years and who, despite everything, was able to win the Giro d'Italia, with a Carlos Rodriguez still in progression and an Egan Bernal far from the level of Tour winner before his serious accident.
In the case of UAE Team Emirates, they have a solid squad and a first class leader in Tadej Pogacar. In fact, they were the ones who most stood up to Jumbo-Visma in the Tour de France and what can we say about the excellent season of classics that the Slovenian gave us. Perhaps the quality of Juan Ayuso has been missed during this Vuelta a España, apart from the fact that they lost one of their main strongholds for this race, Jay Vine, in the first stages.
Looking ahead to 2024, a point of uncertainty looms over Jumbo-Visma. On the one hand, the announced end of sponsorship by the Jumbo supermarket chain after writing off its investment, which will take place at the end of next year if the team does not manage to find a replacement sponsor before then. Clearly, finding someone capable of investing the money that has been necessary to put this team at the forefront of world cycling is not going to be an easy task.
On the other hand, the tensions experienced within the team during La Vuelta could lead to the Slovenian Primoz Roglic leaving the team, according to the rumours that have been swirling around the cycling world over the last few days. Roglic is eager to return to the big missing piece in his collection, the Tour de France, a path that is closed to him with the current winner of the race, Jonas Vingegaard, as the leader of the team.
For the time being, Jumbo-Visma continues to strengthen for next year, for example, with the signing of a rider with tremendous potential in Matteo Jorgenson. However, the threat to its supremacy in cycling seems to come from a Lidl-Trek which, ironically, with the incorporation of the German supermarket chain, just when Jumbo abandons the sponsorship, is determined to become the great dominator of cycling in the coming years. In fact, the American team has been mentioned as a possible destination for Primoz Roglic.