For the better part of the last eight years, Team INEOS – formerly Team Sky – has dominated men’s professional cycling peloton.
Seven Tour de France victories, a Giro d’Italia and a Vuelta a Espana have made the British outfit the team perceived as the most diverse, strong and arrogant team on the circuit.
Yet, in 2019 a new candidate emerged for the top spot on the mantle and in 2020 it looks like they’re primed to finally take over as the strongest team in the world.
Team Jumbo-Visma of the Netherlands spent 2019 warming up for a 2020 where their rides to victory are set to become even more plentiful than already witnessed.
We break down why success is almost guaranteed for the Dutch team in the season to come and why we should be paying attention from the Tour Down Under onwards.
2019: A retrospective
While there’s nothing to say next season will mirror the last, if 2019 is anything to judge by, 2020 is only going to be bigger and bolder for the Dutch outfit.
Jumbo-Visma’s ability to sneak under the radar through much of the year has allowed its riders to slowly climb ranks into podium positions, yet it’s cover is certainly no longer fastened going forward.
Take the Tour de France for example: Team Leader Steven Kruiswijk was deemed a pre-race favourite but managed to stay relatively relaxed and fly under-the-radar. While he mightn’t have taken overall victory in the grand tour event, he did place a career best third on the overall podium.
Alongside this, the Jumbo-Visma team overall were able to win outright five individual stages of the race across all terrain: sprint flat finishes, mountain stages, time trials and undulating course routes.
The diversity of the roster enabled the team to catapult themselves into top position for the latter part of the season. This ultimately resulted in Jumbo-Visma winning the final grand tour of the year, La Vuelta a Espana.
This was largely achieved through the panache and grit of Primoz Roglic, who is now the number one ranked male rider in the world. But it takes a village to win a cycling race and no single rider can achieve this alone. Key to this asset is the signing of new talent and the resigning of current talent, which leads us to the next point.
Signings New and Old
Australian rider Chis Harper is among a handful of already confirmed new Jumbo-Visma signings in 2020, alongside Norwegian Tobias Foss and Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands.
Consider this alongside the young riders the team has confirmed from previous seasons for their roster. The result is nothing short of exciting for spectators and intimidating for competitors.
Names like Wout van Aert, George Bennet, Dylan Groenewegen, Laurens De Plus and Tony Martin already hold such merit from their individual results, let alone their ability to work collaboratively to win a race overall.
The nourishing of younger talent like van Aert – in addition to sheer freakish talent – has allowed the rider to blossom in 2019 and become a household name.
Domestiques like Tom Leezer and Maarten Wynants fortify the strength of the team in large races like the grand tour events and even become the thread that holds the seams intact for weeks of racing.
Jumbo-Visma’s one team mentality allows them to excel in races and the additions to their roster mean the limitations on their potential successes are slowly eradicating.
By signing Chris Harper, the Australian is able to break into the World Tour tier of cycling rather than remaining at a Continental level for another season.
Jumbo-Visma has been strategic in the athletes they have negotiated with to build a unit that is able to perform as both individuals but also successfully as a team with a united goal.
The strength of the team leader, however, is significant in its own right.
Tommy D is in het huis
No singular rider can win a race alone and requires the support of others in the team through the domestiques, super domestiques, road captains, etc.
Yet the rider that’s chosen to lead the team and is deemed the strongest all-rounder is often the starting point from which to build the team for any particular race.
The three biggest races of the season are the Tours of Italy, France and Spain, each spaced one to two months apart.
It’s only logical that the signing of a previous grand tour winner will boost both morale and team competitiveness in the field. This is where Dutch cycling great-in-the-making Tom Dumoulin steps in.
Dumoulin’s results speak for themselves with an overall win at the Giro d’Italia, podium at the Tour de France and a world title.
By inking a three-year deal with Jumbo-Visma, the team has been able to secure a rider in the prime of his career alongside their already boosted armada in a win-win situation for both parties.
Jumbo-Visma are strengthened with another grand tour winning hopeful and Dumoulin is backed in the peloton by a versatile, agile squad to propel him in his pursuit of victory.
Cycling is a cruel sport and success is never certain.
Months of hard work can come undone at the slight misjudgement of a corner, at the slowing of a peloton, or at the misplacing of an individual in the field.
The evidence for Jumbo-Visma excelling in 2020 is overwhelmingly strong and will make for an entertaining and impetuous showing for the season to come.
Will Tom Dumoulin or Steven Krusijwijk become the first Dutchman to win the Tour de France in as many years? Will Wout van Aert sprint to victory in a spring classic? Or will an unfortunate crash in training bring everything unstuck?
Watch this space.
Image by Ben Neale