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Dylan van Baarle works in the crosswinds for Jumbo-Visma at the Vuelta a España
Van Baarle admits Angliru affair 'maybe looked strange' but denies Jumbo-Visma unrest
Dutch domestique says the atmosphere in the team hasn't changed since the start of the Vuelta a España
Editor in Chief
While the battle and surrounding controversy over leadership within Jumbo-Visma at this year’s Vuelta a España rumbled on for several days, one constant presence has remained stable and reliable throughout: the team’s domestiques.
For almost three full weeks Dylan Van Baarle and Robert Gesink have formed Jumbo-Visma’s baseline, the team’s default setting as the pair metronomically tap out at a steady pace across Spain.
Without the Dutch duo, and of course sterling cameos from Wilco Kelderman, Jan Tratnik and Attila Valter, the leadership debate would have been almost mute.
Without fail, no matter the scrutiny and speculation, the Jumbo-Visma support riders have been present, accounted for, and, according to Van Baarle, the team’s harmony has never been in doubt.
"It’s been a long three weeks but we’re almost there," he told GCN at the Vuelta a España.
- Read more: Something changed in Sepp Kuss and he was ready to fight for it, says Jumbo-Visma director
With regards to the leadership debate and the controversy after both Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič decided to repeatedly take lumps out of Sepp Kuss's race lead all the way through until stage 17, Van Baarle stated that the riders had agreed to race each other.
"They had a good talk on the rest day and all three of them wanted to go for it,” the former Paris-Roubaix winner said. "Then on the Angliru they basically showed that the three of them were basically the same. Then they sat down together again and decided that this was how they wanted to do it, and how they wanted to go to Madrid."
The Angliru on stage 17 appeared to be a seminal point in many ways. All three Jumbo-Visma leaders were clear of the field, only for Roglič to push on the pedals with Vingegaard on his wheel. Kuss was unable to follow and the US rider's lead was reduced to less than 10 seconds.
A social media backlash that had been simmering for days boiled over, with television commentators showing their displeasure at Roglič and Vingegaard attacking their teammate and not gifting him the chance to win his first Grand Tour after years of loyal service.
- Read more: 'What a load of baloney' - Sean Kelly lambasts Roglič and Vingegaard for dropping Sepp Kuss
It’s worth pointing out that when the leaders were duking it out on the Angliru summit, Van Baarle was long gone, dropped after another selfless performance.
"For me, it doesn’t change much because we still ride on the front and if it’s for Sepp, Primož or Jonas it doesn’t really make a difference but for the three leaders, it’s now clear," he said.
When specifically asked about the Angliru finale, van Baarle added: “For me, maybe it looked a bit strange in that sense, in that Sepp waited for Primož in 2020 when Primož was in the red jersey.
"They wanted to race for it, though, and that’s what they did.”
There had been speculative reports of unrest within the Jumbo-Visma camp on the evening after the Angliru, and Roglič at times has not hidden his displeasure at being reined in - although he has also complimented Kuss.
Since stage 18, the team have rallied around Kuss, and Van Baarle talked down any rumour of ill-feeling within the team.
“I’ve not felt anything strange or anything like that. We’ve been close since Barcelona onwards but I never had the sense that it changed," he said.
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