Danny van Poppel ready for Primož Roglič bodyguard role in Tour de France

‘We have a good connection’ says Dutchman who will split year between lead-out duties and protecting new Bora-Hansgrohe leader

ClockUpdated 02:36, Tuesday 16th January 2024. Published 02:27, Tuesday 16th January 2024
Danny van Poppel will return to the Tour de France to support Primož Roglič

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Danny van Poppel will return to the Tour de France to support Primož Roglič

Danny van Poppel has made a name for himself as one of the best lead-out riders in the WorldTour in recent years, but in 2024 the Dutchman will turn some of his attention to GC protection duties for Primož Roglič.

The Dutchman is slated for the Bora-Hansgrohe Tour de France team in July, where he’ll take up the role of bodyguard de luxe, supporting the Slovenian as he attempts to tick off the third Grand Tour.

Roglič’s previous attempts in France - bar 2020, when he nearly won - have been scuppered by early incidents, and it seems Bora are investing a lot in not just his climbing support, but riders who can look after their leader on the flat, too.

Read more: All in for Primož Roglič as Bora-Hansgrohe send the big guns to the Tour de France

“It’s a nice programme. It’s a switch, a lead-out and protecting Primož,” Van Poppel told GCN at the Tour Down Under, where he’s starting the year as a lead-out rider for Sam Welsford before joining Roglič later in the season in Europe.

Though Roglič is a brand new addition to the team, and has spent the winter acclimatising to his new home, Van Poppel is actually a former teammate of the Slovenian, which should help their teamwork come July.

“I know Primož from Jumbo and we have a good connection,” Van Poppel said. “I hope to protect him as well as possible, but I cannot do it alone of course. I need also a good team around us.”

The provisional team that Bora-Hansgrohe has assembled for the Tour is certainly strong, with Jai Hindley and Aleksandr Vlasov leading the climber-heavy team, whilst Nico Denz will be the main flat support alongside Van Poppel.

With no sprinter on the team, Van Poppel’s role will be solely to shepherd Roglič through the early stages and the crucial gravel day, with Bora clearly wanting not just a strong rider but one who is an expert in navigating a fast-moving peloton with a leader on his wheel.

Though much has been made about the changes Roglič has brought to the team, Van Poppel, who spent training camp with him, was fairly low-key about his impact, but said spirits in the team are high around him.

“He’s a cool guy, a nice guy, especially when he can finish it off it’s even more motivating for everybody.”

Read more: Ralph Denk: A copy-paste of Primož Roglič's Jumbo knowledge won't guarantee Tour de France success

Roglič’s arrival marks a change of pace at Bora-Hansgrohe, who started to build into a GC team last year. Now, especially with the addition of the Slovenian, the team has cemented themselves in that league now with one of the best Grand Tour riders in the peloton in their colours.

“We had to, because last year with Bennett was of course not what we expected, and then last year was also not great with the GC guys, so we had to change something,” Van Poppel said. “It’s good changes with Primož and Sam, so I’m looking forward and I hope we can win a lot.”

Split duties with Sam Welsford lead-out

As well as lining up alongside Primož Roglič for some of his biggest goals of the year, Van Poppel will also spend a lot of time in his usual role, as a lead-out rider for another new teammate Sam Welsford.

Racing together for the first time at the Tour Down Under, Van Poppel described his partnership with Welsford as a “new chapter”, and the team will be hoping to get off the mark in a winning way ahead of a big year.

Read more: No Down Under Classic sprint for Sam Welsford and ‘frustrated’ Bora-Hansgrohe

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Van Poppel said of working with Welsford. “I have a new chapter in my lead-out career. I have a lot of trust in Sam, I believe a lot in him, so that’s the most important thing. Today there is already a chance.”

With Roglič headed to the Tour will full support, Welsford will have his chance at the Giro d'Italia, where Van Poppel will join him before changing tack in France.

Van Poppel has lead out various riders during his career, most recently Sam Bennett, and explained how it can take some time for the lead-out to really gel, but Bora are starting from a good position.

“It depends also on the sprinter, but normally a few months,” he said. “It depends also how many races. It’s really different. I had only Sam Bennett, so I know only this experience.

“The kind of process, he needs to learn how we ride compared to his other years with DSM. But me and Ryan [Mullen], we are a super strong team, we know each other for two years, so that works great already.”

With as many as four sprint opportunities coming up at the Tour Down Under, and a team built around a reportedly very motivated Sam Welsford, Bora-Hansgrohe have a chance to start the year strong before the road to the Tour de France begins.

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