Cycling’s transfer season tends to go one of two ways: either it’s a big disappointment – with all those widely touted rumours amounting to nothing, turning out to have just been agents putting the squeeze on their clients’ current teams’ purse strings – or it seems to shake up everything.
With the ink drying on Viviani’s move to Cofidis and Phil Gil’s to Lotto Soudal the signs were that we were in for a big one. Jumbo Visma’s – somewhat curiously constructed – announcement that they had secured the signature of Tom Dumoulin earlier this week, settled it.
Finally, a team with the depth, of talent and pockets, to challenge the Grand Tour supremacy of Team Ineos. Perhaps, though there is another possibility. They could turn out to be the new Movistar.
For one of the lessons from the Spanish team over the past few years should be that it takes more than simply having the best rider(s) to win a Grand Tour. A singular focus on the ultimate goal is a prerequisite, too. Despite a few differences and difficulties here and there, Team Sky/Ineos have always had that. Do Jumbo Visma? I’m not so sure.
It’s not that the emperor has no clothes – four stages and a podium at the Tour de France are not to be sniffed at – but I’m sceptical they’re the fine robes of ermin and silk that everyone else seems to suggest.
Take the 2018 Tour de France. It was perhaps too soon for Roglič to win it but a podium was well within his reach. Not that it came down to a single moment but Steven Kruiswijk’s stage-hunting on Alpe d’Huez was not indicative of a team with its eyes on a single prize.
Then there’s this year’s Giro d’Italia. It wasn’t bad luck that cost Roglič the overall victory, nor was it that he wasn’t physically capable. Rather it was that he was on his own for most of the race and at crucial moments the team let him down. Sure, you can also point to a gradual decline in form over the three weeks, but the margins were fine enough that had he had stronger support – specifically better climbers who could have chased Carapaz down – that difference could have been neutralised.
On the one hand, though he’s definitely got the potential to podium in a three week race, George Bennett is a decent bloke who’ll suck it up and get stuck in; Laurens De Plus is young enough that he’s maybe got a year or two before he starts itching for big race leadership.
On the other, even while Kruiswijk might have a few years on the others it’s hard to see him settling into a support role yet; Roglic himself is the lonest of lone wolves; add Dumoulin to the mix – a good guy, but he didn’t make this move to play second fiddle to anyone – and Jumbo could easily have a Valverde/Quintana/Landa situation on their hands.
Maybe they can manage the talent better than Eusebio Unzué has, find space for all of their ambitions and provide opportunities to satisfy every rider. But there are only three Grand Tours a year. It’s not going to be easy.