The first (mini) round of the Tour de France’s general classification bout went to Slovenian Primoz Roglic, the man looking to derail the Ineos Grenadiers train that won seven of the last eight Tours.
Roglic, a 2007 World junior ski jumping team champion, has, at 30, blossomed into the leader of an emerging and loaded Jumbo-Visma team. The Dutch outfit pulled the leading group up the last of four climbs to the first summit finish of the Tour in just the fourth stage on Tuesday.
The Jumbo depth and youth was on display, with a pair of 25-year-olds taking turns at the front. First, Belgian Wout van Aert, in his second Tour. Then, Tour rookie Sepp Kuss, the most promising American climber in years, who gave way with 500 meters left.
Roglic won the stage with a punchy sprint in the last 100 meters. And though defending champion Egan Bernal of Ineos finished in the same time (minus Roglic’s 10-second winning bonus), it was clear which team ruled the day.
“It’s not good when another GC rider gets some seconds, but I think we need to be patient and know that our best scenario is to arrive in the third week without losing too much time and then trying to recover time on the long climbs,” Bernal said, according to Cyclingnews.com. “We want to arrive as fresh as we can in the final week.”
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Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe remained in the yellow jersey, still four seconds ahead of Brit Adam Yates. Alaphilippe’s days in the lead appear numbered, though he overcame similar doubts a year ago to hold the maillot jaune for 14 days before finishing fifth.
If Alaphilippe keeps yellow through Wednesday’s flat stage five (7 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold), stage six with late climbs and through the Pyrenees this weekend, he will have more career days in the maillot jaune than all but two other men who haven’t won a Tour.
“We’re not here to control the race for three weeks,” Alaphilippe said, according to Cyclingnews.com, reiterating his stance that becoming the first Frenchman to win the Tour since 1985 is not a goal.
While Alaphilippe was the enduring story of last year’s Tour, Jumbo-Visma may have started putting pen to paper on Tuesday.
Kuss’ presence at the front in the final half-mile of a mountain stage was a welcomed sight for U.S. cycling fans who haven’t seen an American finish in the top 30 of the Tour in this Olympic cycle. An American last won an individual stage in 2011 (sprinter Tyler Farrar).
“On a stage like this, I’m definitely more switched on, and I know that I have a real job to help the guys,” said Kuss, a native of Durango, Colo., who turned heads by winning a stage in the premier Tour prep race, the Criterium du Dauphine.
Kuss also worked for Roglic in the Dauphine before the Slovenian withdrew while leading the race after crashing. Roglic’s performance Tuesday put to bed doubts about his health and form.
Jumbo also has the 2018 Tour runner-up in Tom Dumoulin, while his Scottie Pippen-role counterpart at Ineos Grenadiers, 2019 Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz, lost 28 seconds on Tuesday to the men who are contenders to stand on the podium in Paris in nearly three weeks.
A few minutes after Tuesday’s win, Roglic declared he didn’t care that he didn’t take over the yellow jersey. Roglic, and Jumbo-Visma, look like they will have plenty more opportunities to show that this is their Tour.
“I’m coming back now,” he said about the return from the Dauphine crash. “Every day I feel a little better. It’s nice to ride a bike again.”
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