It was just one week ago that Jumbo-Visma looked close to unstoppable in the Classics. Dylan van Baarle and Tiesj Benoot took victories at Omloop het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne respectively and in both races, the team in black and yellow were utterly dominant, flawless in their tactics and execution. Less than seven days later at Strade Bianche, however, the Jumbo-Visma fairytale came to an abrupt and sour end, as numerous errors meant that the victory slipped out of their hands, despite them having the strength and numbers to win the race.
Around 30 kilometres after Tom Pidcock made his winning attack, Benoot was in a trio which was chasing the flying Brit. Attila Valter – Jumbo-Visma’s young Hungarian champion – sat in a group just behind Benoot which was filled with fast finishers such as Quinn Simmons and Matej Mohorič. With just under 20 kilometres of the race remaining as the riders hit the tenth gravel sector of the day, Benoot attacked his trio, making a bid to get across to Pidcock alone.
Behind, Valter’s group was splintering on the climb, with the likes of Mohorič and Simmons struggling on the steep gradients. Valter, on the other hand, was in impressive form, coming round Simmons as they crested the top of the ascent. At this point, it looked like the Hungarian could bridge the gap to his teammate alone, creating a good situation for Jumbo-Visma; it would have been a four-rider group with two teammates able to chase. However, as the road flattened out, Mohorič and Simmons began to close the gap to Valter. This meant that when Benoot looked round from the group ahead, it appeared that his teammate was towing two of the Dutch team’s biggest rivals across the gap, putting them back in contention for victory.
Image: James Startt
Benoot made no secret of his discontent about this move during the race, throwing his hands in the air in frustration when he saw his teammate approaching him from behind. From Valter’s perspective, he seemed unaware of how small the gap to his breakaway companions had become, perhaps expecting that they had fallen further behind on the climb.
“I needed to communicate better with Tiesj, it’s mainly my fault,” Valter admitted after the race.
Even after the clear mix-up on the climb, however, Jumbo-Visma still were unable to coherently put together a plan to catch Pidcock, despite coming as close to seven seconds from the Ineos Grenadiers rider. With two of them in the group, it…
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