First and second overall, a stage win, four days in the race leader’s yellow jersey, the teams prize, the points jersey, the King of the Mountains prize and the Best Young Riders jersey. As the dust settled on the Itzulia Basque Country on Saturday there could be little doubt that Jumbo-Visma emerged as the strongest team of the race.
Jumbo-Visma’s global performance in the six-day race was capped by Primoz Roglic’s first place overall, seized in dramatic style on stage six when the Slovenian first inveigled his way into a downhill breakaway move and then kept his pursuers, and especially Slovenian rival Tadej Pogačar, at bay for almost 60 kilometres.
Roglic’s success and young teammate Jonas Vingegaard claiming second overall and the Best Young Rider’s jersey added far greater depth to their success at the Itzulia Basque Country.
Overall victory was the 53rd triumph of Roglic’s career and the fifth this season. For Jumbo-Visma it is the 13th win of 2021 and by far their best all-round performance in a stage race of the season to date.
The fact that the Jumbo-Visma team in Itzulia Basque Country had a fair percentage of young riders on its line-up makes their result even more remarkable. Rather than relying on better-known team heavyweights like George Bennett, Sepp Kuss, Tony Martin or Steve Kruijswijk, roglic was backed by Vingegaard, Sam Oomen, Tobias Foss, Christoph Pfingsten, Lennard Hofstede and Antwan Tolhoek.
Although the team’s main role had been to back up Roglic, the riders had been able to look out for their own chances as well.
“My role here was as help for Primoz, we were trying for a 1-2, but if there had been a bad situation then it would be me to do the work,” Vingegaard explained after taking the blue best young rider jersey.
“That situation didn’t happen, so I also had my own opportunity.”
“For me this result will give me a lot of confidence and only to be beaten by the best rider in the world makes me very happy. I think I’ve taken a very big step this year.”
Already the winner of Coppi&Bartali, a summit finish stage in the UAE Tour this year and part of Roglic’s team of climbers last year in the Vuelta a España, 25-year-old Vingegaard, said that getting second in la Itzulia was well beyond his expectations.
He’d wanted to win on stage four, where he was part of the breakaway where Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) took the lead, to be able to dedicate the win to his family, in particular his seven-month old daughter. Two days later he’d had the ideal result.
“This is probably one of the hardest one-week races of the year, and also we have Primoz, who’s probably the best rider in the world at the moment, so I thought I would be coming here, more to work for him. To get a result like this, then, is something special.”
Jumbo-Visma’s dominating performance comes less than a fortnight after Ineos-Grenadiers scooped the top three places in the Volta a Catalunya. Although that is purely coincidental, the timing makes it clear that Jumbo-Visma look to be no less a collective force in stage racing than they were last year.
It also confirms that the Roglic-Pogacar duel is very much alive and kicking as the days tick down towards the summer and the Tour de France.
Both riders can take away some significant positives from la Itzulia Basque Country, but surely the biggest winners were the fans, able to witness the rare sight on the last day of two of the sport’s top stage racers battling it out man to man and largely without team support for nearly two hours in a way that honoured both them and the race.
Next up are the Ardennes Classics, with Roglic, Pogacar, Jumbo-Visma, UAE Team Emirates and everyone else due to clash yet again.