Nine riders in the frame for Jumbo-Visma's Tour de France squad, eight begin Sierra Nevada camp
Jonas Vingegaard, Wout van Aert and the rest of Jumbo-Visma's expected Tour de France line-up have gathered in Sierra Nevada to begin their preparations for the biggest race of the season.
Primož Roglič is currently leading the team at the Giro d'Italia, and team director Merijn Zeeman appears to have definitively ruled out the possibility of the Slovenian joining the cast in France after his efforts in Italy.
"If he can ride the general classification at the Giro, then it is done for Primož," Zeeman told Het Nieuwsblad. "Then he will need his rest."
Roglič had a difficult off-season after making early exits from both last year's Tour de France and Vuelta a España. He underwent shoulder surgery in the winter and spent several weeks off the bike but he made a surprisingly strong start to 2023, with wins at Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya ahead of the Giro.
His role as a decoy following his initial crash at last year's Tour was crucial in helping Vingegaard topple Tadej Pogačar on the Col du Granon but Jumbo-Visma appear to be taking on Pogačar with a sole-leader strategy with Vingegaard in 2023.
Zeeman indicated that there are nine riders currently in the frame for the eight spots on the Tour team, although, as the wave of enforced replacements for the Giro has shown, the best-laid plans can be suddenly uprooted and back-ups will be on standby.
Eight of those nine riders are currently in Sierra Nevada, the mountain range in the south of Spain, for a long block of altitude training to lay the foundations for the Tour.
Along with last year's yellow jersey Vingegaard and green jersey Van Aert, the team have taken former podium finisher Steven Kruijswijk and former Giro podium finisher Wilco Kelderman, along with the core of their Classics team: Christophe Laporte, Tiesj Benoot, Dylan van Baarle, and Nathan van Hooydonck.
The ninth man is Sepp Kuss, who is racing the Giro after being drafted in as a replacement for the injured Kelderman. He was part of the team's Tour plans at the start of the year but it remains to be seen how he comes out of the Giro. He has twice supported Roglič to Vuelta a España glory soon after completing the Tour de France.
“Everyone is there, except Sepp Kuss. Depending on how he comes out of the Giro and can work towards his top condition again, we will see if he also takes on the Tour," said Zeeman.
"We currently have a pool of nine riders and after the Tour de Suisse we will take stock. For the time being, we mainly focus on preparing as well as possible, including for a possible setback. As we noticed in the run-up to the Giro, it is better to grow towards that top condition with several riders.”
The Jumbo-Visma riders completed their first training ride on Tuesday, with Van Aert uploading to Strava a 77.34km ride that packed in 2,420 metres of elevation gain as they climbed Hoya de la Mora then looped around to do it again before carrying on to the uppermost paved roads of the Sierra Nevada just above 3000 metres.
"The first week it is a matter of adjusting a bit to the altitude and the thinner air," said Zeeman. "Then we increase the training rhythm. Everyone works through their own separate program. The third week will certainly be the toughest for all riders.
"We are forging a team that works together towards one main goal and we hope that by being together a lot and training together, something magical will happen. We all want to achieve the same main goal together again."
Jumbo-Visma will come down from the mountain on May 29, with some riders then racing either the Critérium du Dauphiné or Tour de Suisse, before one possible final mini altitude camp ahead of the Tour.